NASA’s InSight project hopes to unlock the mysteries of the formation and evolution of rocky planets, including Earth.

Photo: Sunrise on Mars Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (cropped. See full image below)

About InSight

InSight, the first mission to explore Mars’ deep interior, landed on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. It will investigate processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system more than four billion years ago.

NASA Mars InSight Overview

InSight is more than a Mars mission. Its team members hope to unlock the mysteries of the formation and evolution of rocky planets, including Earth.

InSight Cruises to Mars (Artist’s Concept):This artist’s concept shows the InSight spacecraft, encapsulated in its aeroshell, as it cruised to Mars. Full image and caption ›

InSight – Studying the ‘Inner Space’ of Mars

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

Interior of Mars
Mars’ Interior: Artist’s rendition showing the inner structure of Mars. The topmost layer is known as the crust, underneath it is the mantle, which rests on a solid inner core.

Studying Mars’ interior structure answers key questions about the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets. InSight also measures tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars today.

The lander uses cutting edge instruments, to delve deep beneath the surface and seek the fingerprints of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets. It does so by measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).

This mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program for highly focused science missions that ask critical questions in solar system science.

First CubeSats to Deep Space

The rocket that launched InSight also launched a separate NASA technology experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO. These briefcase-sized CubeSats flew on their own path to Mars behind InSight.

Their goal was to test new miniaturized deep space communication equipment. Upon their arrival at Mars, the twin MarCOs successfully relayed back InSight data as it entered the Martian atmosphere and landed. This was the first test of miniaturized CubeSat technology at another planet, which researchers hope can offer new capabilities to future missions.

InSight Science Goals

The InSight mission seeks to uncover how a rocky body forms and evolves to become a planet by investigating the interior structure and composition of Mars. The mission will also determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.

Sol 1198: Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC)
NASA’s InSight Mars lander acquired this image using its robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC).

This image was acquired on April 10, 2022, Sol 1198 where the local mean solar time for the image exposures was 05:31:41.448 AM. Each IDC image has a field of view of 45 x 45 degrees.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech