Right after Curiosity’s success, NASA has announced a new Mars mission called InSight. It will be a spacecraft designed to get deep under the surface of Mars and find some its hidden secrets. It will launch in 2014.
InSight — which conveniently stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — will carry various instruments, but its main tool will be HP3, which standard for Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package. Made by the German Aerospace centre, HP3 will use a device called Tractor Mole to go 16 feet (5m) under the top soil of the red planet. The Tractor Mole is a hammer that contains a “14-inch (35cm) hollowed-out, electromechanically-festooned stake.” The hammer will rise and fall, “moving the stake down in the soil and dragging a tether along behind it.”
According to Sue Smrekar — deputy project scientist for InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — “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.”
Designed after the Phoenix lander architecture, InSight will also carry “onboard geodetic instrument to determine the planet’s rotation axis, plus a robotic arm and two cameras used to deploy and monitor instruments on the Martian surface.”
Maybe Curiosity can pop over and have drinks one day. [NASA]