Exploring Mars’ interior
Having spent decades analyzing Mars’ peaks and valleys, NASA is set to investigate what lies beneath the Red Planet’s dusty surface. The space agency’s InSight robotic lander was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last week, reports Space.com. If all goes to plan, on Nov. 26 the lander will touch down on Mars and begin a two-year data-collecting mission. Unlike NASA’s robotic geologist rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, InSight will be stationary. The spacecraft is equipped with a highly sensitive seismometer, to detect “marsquakes” and meteorite impacts, and a large heat probe that will bore roughly 16 feet into the ground and measure temperature changes over time. “In essence, [the probe] will take the vital signs of Mars,” says NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen—“its pulse, temperature, and much more.” While Earth is geologically active, scientists believe the Red Planet’s interior hasn’t changed much since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. InSight should shed new light on how Mars and other rocky plants evolved.