NASA announces new mission to Mars on the heels of Curiosity

JPL/NASA-Caltech

This artist's rendition illustrates the formation of rocky bodies in the solar system - how they form and differentiate and evolve into terrestrial planets.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This artist's rendition depicts the InSight spacecraft deploying its seismometer and heat flow experiments on Mars.


Just a few short weeks after the Curiosity rover's successful Martian landing, NASA has announced a new mission to Mars. But the InSight project wouldn't be a rover like Curiosity; the static lander will be mainly devoted to sussing out what goes into the inner — and outer — workings of the red planet.

That includes placing a seismometer on the surface and drilling a 16 foot hole into Mars' crust.















"That will give us a lot of insight into the core and mantel and crust and relative relationships of those," says Tom Hoffman, a spokesman for the InSight project. "Using that information we can understand our early formation of Earth and other planets."

Of particular interest to NASA is Mars' core, specifically whether it's liquid or solid. Hoffman says that because of its lack of tectonic activity — shifting continents, constant earthquakes — Mars represents a "fairly pristine view of what the Earth looked like in its formation."

"By investigating that ... we can understand better the relationship between [Mars and Earth]," says Hoffman, "and then extrapolate with other rocky-bodied terrestrial planets in our solar system and other solar systems."

Meaning that the new mission could shed light on how solid planets were made — and that includes our own.

Since leaving Earth in late November of last year, NASA's last bot travelled roughly 350 million miles at an average cruising speed of nearly 8,000 miles per hour on its way to Mars.

The InSight project is set to launch in 2016.

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