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InSight lander on its way to Mars
Lander on Mars surface. © NASA

InSight lander on its way to Mars

NASA's InSight Mars lander will the first spacecraft to study the interior structure of the Red Planet. A French-built seismometer will play a key role.

The Lockheed Martin-built InSight Mars lander was successfully launched on 5th May at 4:05 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.

InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) — which was designed, built and tested by Lockheed Martin — is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet on 26th November 2018.

Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, InSight will be the first mission to peer beneath the surface and take the vital signs of the planet. It will be the first mission to study the planet's interior by measuring its heat output and observing its rotational variations.

The SEIS seismometer is the core instrument of the InSight mission. French space agency CNES is lead contractor, and the IPGP global physics institute in Paris (CNRS/Paris Diderot University) is the instrument principal investigator.

SEIS will use the seismic waves generated by Mars quakes and meteorite impacts to develop a map of the planet's deep interior. The resulting insight into Mars' formation will help mission scientists to better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, evolved.

CNES has developed a dedicated ground segment at its Toulouse Space Centre called SISMOC (SeIS on Mars Operations Centre) to analyse telemetry from Mars and send telecommands to SEIS throughout the mission. Seismic data collected at SISMOC and transferred to IPGP’s SEIS Data Centre will then be distributed to scientists around the world and through the SISMO at School network (GeoAzur).

Lockheed Martin is responsible for flight operations during the cruise phase as well as entry, descent and landing in November later this year.

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