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InSight digs for Mars secrets


The lander will measure heat beneath the planet’s surface for answers about why its core cooled, unlike Earth’s. Scientists don’t know why the core of Mars cooled, causing it to stop generating plate tectonics and the type of magnetic field that protects the atmosphere of Earth from being stripped away by solar winds. NASA theorizes that without that magnetic protection Mars lost its atmosphere and possibly oceans over the eons.

NASA-funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory plans to launch a probe between May 5 and June 8 to land on Mars and take the first comprehensive measurements of the planet’s interior that could determine how other rocky planets including Earth are formed.

The InSight probe, which is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, built by Lockheed Martin, will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a six-month journey to the red planet.

InSight aims to dig deeper into Mars than humans have ever dug on another world, so JPL chose a landing site that is relatively rock free. InSight is the first mission with the goal of measuring the heat flow within Mars, and the first deep space mission to be accompanied by orbiting cubesats.

Credit: Staff research, NASA

InSight digs for Mars secrets