"As InSight exercises in the marsh, we will learn more about the formation of Mars and Earth. We know more about where we all came from, and why these two rocky worlds are so similar, yet different," Bill Nye, CEO of the ideal planetary society, said in a statement. "We can learn more about what kind of planets can take life. InSight is more than a Mars mission – it's a solar system mission."
Missionaries like the robbers have given a good glance at the surface, including Mars guns, volcanoes, land and rocks, but it's the building blocks below the surface that record the history of the planet. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior.
On earth there are stories that are locked in the core of Martian, mantle and crust. But Mars history can be more complete than the Earth, because the red planet has been less geologically active.
Mars was chosen for the mission because of this complete record, similar to the formation of soil, venus, mercury and the moon. InSight can also investigate the planet's tectonic activity and meteoritic effects.
And it's not just about Mars. InSight gives us a deeper understanding of how the rocky planets of our inner solar system were formed more than 4 billion years ago, as did the Earth.
It is similar in design to Mars Phoenix Mission, which studied ice near Mars Northern Poland 2008.
MarCO is on the trip
InSight is not alone in this mission. Two spacecraft, called MarCO, are cube satellites that follow InSight on the trip. They are the first cube satellites that fly into deep space. MarCO will try to share InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere of the landing.
During InSights entry, descent and landing, the landlord will transfer information to Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which now circles Mars. But orbits can not receive and transmit data at the same time, which would delay the news about landing by about an hour.
However, MarCO can receive and send immediately.
"MarCO-A and B are our first and second interplanetary CubeSats designed to monitor InSight for a short period of landing, if the MarCO pair makes it Mars," said Jim Green, director of NASA's planet department. "However, these CubeSat missions are not necessary for InSights mission success. They are a demonstration of potential future capabilities. The MarCO couple will have their own communication and navigation experiments when they fly independently to the Red Planet."
Landing: What to know
Landing on Mars is extremely difficult. Only 40% of the assignments sent to the Red Planet by any authority have become successful.
Part of this is due to the thin Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of the earth, so there is nothing to slow down something that tries to land on the surface.
The United States is the only country that has missionaries that survived landing on Mars, and NASA has flown by, circled, landed and roared across Mars since 1965.
Like the Phoenix Spacecraft, InSight will have a parachute and retro rockets to slow down its descent through the atmosphere, and three legs suspended from the landlord will try to absorb the shock to touch the surface.
But the engineers prepared spacecraft to land under a dust storm if needed.
Tweaks to the original Phoenix design included heat shield and parachute. The heat shield is thick, which can be sandblasted by a mart's dust storm, while the parachute's suspension lines are stronger to cope with air resistance.
InSight will not have a blind landing. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends weather updates to the mission team in the days before, which allows the team to change when the parachute is triggered.
InSight's new home
InSight will land at Elysium Planitia, called "the largest parking space on Mars" by astronomers. As it will not move over the surface, the landing site was an important determination. This place is open, flat safe and boring, which is what researchers want for a stationary two-year mission.
"If Elysium Planitia was a salad, it would consist of roman lettuce and bald – no dressing," says InSights lead researcher Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "If it were a glass it would be vanilla."
After landing, InSight will unfurlate its solar panels and robot arm and study the entire planet from its parking lot. It's along the Martian Equator, light and warm enough to drive the landsman's sunrise all year round.
The InSight geophysical instrument sounds like a doctor's bag, giving Mars its first "checkup" since it was formed. Together, these instruments will measure Mars's vital signs, such as its heart rate, temperature and reflexes – which means that the inner activity of seismology and the planet's cradle as the sun and its moons drag on Mars.
These instruments include the seismic experiment for internal structures to investigate what causes the seismic waves of Mars, the heat flow and the physical trait to dig underground and determine the heat flowing out of the planet, and the rotation and interior structure try to use radios to study the planet's core .
InSight will be able to measure shakes that happen somewhere on the planet. And it can hammer a probe in the surface.
"Choosing a good landing location on Mars is much like choosing a good home: it's about location, location, location," says Tom Hoffman, Project Manager at InSight on JPL. "For the first time, the evaluation of the Mars landing site was to consider what was below the Mars surface. We needed not only a safe place to land but also a workpath that is permeable by our 16 foot long heat flow probe."