NASA Unveils Next Mars Mission

InSight lander will look deep inside red planet

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 21, 2012 12:36 AM CDT | Updated Aug 21, 2012 4:16 AM CDT

(Newser) – As Curiosity begins its work on the surface of Mars, NASA has unveiled plans to study the red planet's interior. The agency aims to send the InSight robotic lander to Mars in 2016 to detect "marsquakes," determine whether the planet's core is solid or liquid, and analyze its mantle, the BBC reports. The project is part of the first round of NASA's "Discovery" missions, which cap costs at $425 million—plus the cost of the rocket to launch the lander into space.

Team members say the InSight project will answer questions scientists have been asking about Mars for decades, and provide a better idea of how planets, including our own, formed. "This is not going to be a mission of pretty pictures like Curiosity, but when we get the first marsquakes, I think that is going to be a really cool data set," said a project scientist. "We don't know if Earth is a special case or a more general case. A lot of science is based on it being a more general case because that allows you to develop theories about how the core formed, the mantle around it and then the crust on top. But we'd really like to test this out on another planet."

This image from NASA shows an artist's rendition of the InSight (Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) Lander.
This image from NASA shows an artist's rendition of the InSight (Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) Lander.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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