Tuesday, May 20, 2014

InSight Lander

This artist's concept depicts the stationary NASA Mars lander known by the acronym InSight at work studying the interior of Mars. The InSight mission (for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is scheduled to launch in March 2016 and land on Mars six months later. It will investigate processes that formed and shaped Mars and will help scientists better understand the evolution of our inner solar system's rocky planets, including Earth.

InSight will deploy two instruments to the ground using a robotic arm: a seismometer (contributed by the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, or CNES) to measure the microscopic ground motions from distant marsquakes, providing detailed information about the interior structure of Mars; and a heat-flow probe (contributed by the German Aerospace Center, or DLR) designed to hammer itself 3 to 5 meters (about 16 feet) deep and monitor heat coming from the planet's interior. The mission will also track the lander's radio to measure wobbles in the planet's rotation that relate to the size of its core and will include a camera and a suite of environmental sensors to monitor the weather and variations in the magnetic field. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is building the spacecraft.

The following are shown in the annotated image:

• Grapple – Mechanism at the end of the IDA that grips the instruments during deployment
• Heat Flow Probe – Hammering mechanism that pulls the temperature sensors down into the regolith
• HP3 – Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, the heat flow experiment
• IDC – Instrument Deployment Camera, pointable medium-resolution camera
• IDA – Instrument Deployment Arm
• ICC – Instrument Context Camera, fixed wide-angle camera
• Pressure Inlet – Wind-shielded opening for pressure sensor
• RISE Antenna – X-band radio antenna for the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment
• SEIS – Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, the seismometer
• Tethers – Cables carrying electrical power, commands and data between the lander and instruments
• TWINS – Temperature and Winds for InSight, environmental sensors
• UHF Antenna – Antenna used for communication with orbital relay spacecraft
• WTS – Wind and Thermal Shield protecting the seismometer from the environment

Illustration credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Note: For more information, see Construction to Begin on 2016 NASA Mars Lander.

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