Denver space corp. to build NASA’s next Mars spacecraft
This artist's rendition depicts the InSight spacecraft deploying its seismometer and heat flow experiments on Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
DENVER — Lockheed Martin has announced that its Space Systems division based in Denver will build the spacecraft for NASA’s next mission to Mars, which will aim to find out what’s underneath the planet’s surface.
The targeted launch date will be sometime in 2016, and the cost of the mission will be capped at $425 million.
The name of the mission will be InSight, which stands for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.” When it comes to investigating Mars’ core, researchers hope to find out if the substance beneath mars’ surface is solid or liquid like Earth’s.
According to NASA, the lander in this mission will drill into the Martian planet’s surface by “literally pounding it into submission” with a 14-inch, hollowed-out stake called the Tractor Mole.
If the process is able to successfully channel into Mars’ core, the information obtained will give researchers a better idea about the planet’s thermal history.
“Getting well below the surface gets us away from the sun’s influence and allows us to measure heat coming from the interior,” said Sue Smrekar, deputy project scientist for InSight from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “InSight is going take heartbeat and vital signs of the Red Planet for an entire Martian year, two Earth years. We are really going to have an opportunity to understand the processes that control the early planetary formation.”
This mission is being compared to the Phoenix mission, the landing vessel for which was also designed by Lockheeed Martin. That mission successfully studied ground ice near the north pole of Mars in 2008.