Mars InSight is coming in for a landing soon on the Red Planet

01:41 - Source: CNN
What NASA's newest Mars mission will look for
CNN —  

For the first time in six years, a new mission is about to land on Mars. On November 26, NASA’s Mars InSight lander will touch down on the Red Planet at 3 p.m. EST.

InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is going to explore a part of Mars that we know the least about: its deep interior. It launched May 5.

“When InSight drills down into the Martian soil, we’ll learn more about how Mars and Earth formed. We’ll know more about where we all came from, and why these two rocky worlds are so similar yet so different,” Bill Nye, CEO of the nonprofit Planetary Society, said in a statement. “We may learn more about what kinds of planets can harbor life. InSight is more than a Mars mission – it’s a solar system mission.”

NASA will provide live coverage from mission control, and there are landing watch parties around the world. In 2012, there were similar events to celebrate the Mars Curiosity rover’s landing.

What is InSight?

Missions like the rovers have provided a great look at the surface, including Mars canyons, volcanoes, soil and rocks, but it’s the building blocks below the surface that record the planet’s history. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior.

Like on Earth, there are stories locked in the Martian core, mantle and crust. But the history of Mars may be more complete than Earth’s because the Red Planet has been less geologically active.

Mars was chosen for the mission because of this complete record, which is similar to the formation of Earth, Venus, Mercury and the moon. InSight can also investigate the planet’s tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.

And this isn’t just about Mars. InSight will give us a deeper understanding of how the rocky planets in our inner solar system formed more than 4 billion years ago, like Earth.

It’s similar in design to the Mars Phoenix Mission, which studied ice near the Martian north pole in 2008.