NASA is sending a new solar-powered lander to Mars to check out what's been happening for the past 4.5 billion years
NASA is sending a mission to Mars this year. But don't get your space suit zipped up just yet: The trip is for a solar-powered lander, not people.
The NASA inspection kit is named InSight, and it's a hefty, 794-pound Martian lander. InSight (aka Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is set to blast off for Mars from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base before dawn, at around 4 a.m. Pacific on May 5, 2018.
Scientists at NASA say the lander will give the Red Planet a 4.5 billion year-overdue "checkup." InSight has three main objectives on Mars: taking the planet's temperature, measuring its size, and checking out how much it's shaking things up by monitoring for "Marsquakes."
Take a look at what the roughly $828 million mission will do:
The trip to Mars won't happen overnight. It takes about six months for the InSight lander to travel the roughly 301 million miles from southern California to Martian soil.
It will all weigh about 730,000 pounds when it's fully fueled and ready for blastoff.
If everything goes according to plan, InSight will land on Mars on November 26, 2018.
The last minutes of its journey traveling down into the Martian atmosphere will be the trickiest, as it slows down from around 12,500 miles per hour to five miles an hour in just seven minutes.
Once InSight has touched down firmly on the Martian ground, it'll get to work examining the rocky surface of Mars. InSight scientists hope the lander will help them gain a better understanding of how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed.
The lander won't move around on Mars like a rover. Instead, it's more like an unmanned research station.
One of the first things the ~20-foot-long lander will do when it touches down is start drilling its heat probe into the Martian soil. That will take about two months.
InSight's probe, roughly one and a half stories tall, will check the temperature below the surface of Mars.
InSight will also be on the lookout for Marsquakes
The lander uses this ~7-foot-long robotic arm to move put that marsquake detector (seismometer) and its heat probe on the ground. But there's a third important instrument included on InSight.
NASA went on a similar mission to check up on Mars about ten years ago. The Phoenix mission landed on the planet in 2008.
InSight will spend more than one Mars year on its Martian 'checkup.' For you earthlings out there, that's equivalent to two Earth years, minus a couple days.
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