InSight is a robotic lander operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory en route to Mars to study its interior structure. A bacronym, Insight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transporting. The mission launched on May 5, 2018 from Vandenberg Airforce Base in California.
Insight will complete its seven month journey to the Red Planet on November 26, 2018, touching down on the surface of Mars in a region called Elysium Planitia. Once there, by deploying a seismometer and performing numerous radio experiments, InSight will study and examine the internal structure of Mars, allowing scientists the opportunity to learn more about Mars’ core, mantle, and crust while determining whether any seismic activity exists on the planet. The deployment of these instruments will take around three months following a successful landing.
The InSight spacecraft has traversed 301,223,981 miles of space to reach its destination. Described as an uneventful seven month voyage to the delight of engineers, members of the InSight mission prepare to brace themselves for the lander’s final approach as it enters the Martian atmosphere at a top speed of 12,300 mph (19,800 kph), reducing its speed to that of a human jog (5mph/8mph) with the help of parachutes and retrorockets. The duration of this abrupt deceleration lasts about 7 minutes, the primary reason engineers call a Martian landing “seven minutes of terror.”
The moment mission control confirms a successful spacecraft landing marks an important milestone for interplanetary exploration. The InSight mission pushes the bounds of human space exploration. Where early Mars rover missions but scratched the surface of the Red Planet, InSight will collect valuable information on the structure of Mars’ deep interior, which sets a standard for future missions onto other terrestrial bodies and asteroids. The information gathered from InSight may reveal additional clues to the evolution and formation of other rocky bodies, including our very own planet Earth.
A truly remarkable moment for humanity’s space endeavors, NASA’s InSight mission will provide our civilization with even greater… insight… into the structure of Mars and other planets. And space rocks. Full of metals.