InSight - journey to Mars
Artist’s impression of the NASA InSight lander on the Martian surfaceLaunched on 5 May 2018, NASA’s InSight spacecraft will land on 26 November, just north of the Martian equator, and deploy its solar panels. SEIS, an instrument for recording seismic waves (left of image), and HP3, an instrument developed by DLR to measure the thermal conductivity of the Martian regolith and the heat flow from the interior of the planet (right of image), will be placed on the surface of the planet possibly before the turn of the year.
May 2018 saw the launch of the NASA InSight mission, in which a lander will carry out geophysical measurements directly on the surface of Mars to explore the planet's inner structure and thermal balance. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has contributed to this mission in the form of the HP3 instrument. On 26 November 2018, InSight touched down north of the equator, on the Elysium Planitia plain. Following a test phase, the experiments will commence after the 2018/19 turn of the year. The duration of the mission is initially set at one Mars year, which corresponds to approximately two Earth years.
For the first time since the astronaut mission Apollo 17 in 1972, heat flow measurements will be carried out on another celestial body using a drilling mechanism. The main aim of the experiment is to be able to determine the thermal state of the interior of Mars using thermal flow measurements taken beneath the surface. Models of Mars’ formation, chemical composition and inner structure can be checked and refined on the basis of this data. The measurements from Mars can also be used to draw conclusions about Earth’s early development.
Mission in details
|Launch||5 May 2018 at 13:05 CEST (04:05 PDT)|
|Launch site||Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA|
|Launch vehicle||Atlas V-401 (AV-078)|
|Launch weight||333 tonnes (launch vehicle and InSight payload)|
|Upper stage||Centaur with re-ignitable RL10-C engine|
|Propellants||Thermally-stable kerosene (type RP-1) and liquid oxygen (launch vehicle); liquid hydrogen and oxygen (upper stage)|
|Mission duration||A little over one Mars year (about two Earth years); 708 sols (Mars days) or 728 Earth days|
|Ground stations||34-metre and 70-metre antennas belonging to the NASA Deep Space Network (California, Australia, Spain)|
|August 2012||The US space agency NASA approves InSight as the twelfth mission in its Discovery programme|
5 May 2018
|Launch of InSight to Mars. Distance from Earth to Mars on 5 May 2018: 121 million kilometres. Distance to be covered from Earth to Mars (elliptical Hohmann transfer orbit): 485 million kilometres.|
|26 November 2018|
|Landing of InSight on Mars. Planned landing site: Elysium Planitia at 4.5° North, 135.9° East|
|Late 2020||End of mission (nominal)|
|Mission control centre||Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena (Mission)|
DLR Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC, Cologne) for HP3 experiments; CNES, SISMOC, Toulouse, SEIS
|InSight dimensions||Height: between 83 and 108 centimetres (compression of the legs can only be determined after landing)|
Width with unfolded solar panels: 6 metres
(with transfer stage)
|360 kilograms (727 kilograms)|
|Mass of scientific payload for InSight||50 kilograms|
|Mass of solar panels||Two panels, each 2.15 metres in diameter, with a total area of approximately seven square metres|
|Energy supply / generation from solar panels||On a clear day, both solar panels will generate a total of 600–700 watts. On a day when there is dust in the atmosphere, it is assumed that they will generate 200–300 watts, even if the solar panels are covered in dust.|
|Communications||Via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and 2001 Mars Odyssey|
|Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3 pronounced ‘H-P cubed’)||First determination of the amount of heat emanating from the planet’s interior by measuring the temperature from the surface down to a depth of five metres and measuring the thermal conductivity. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research led the development of the experiment. An infrared radiometer for determining the temperature of the surface of Mars forms part of the experiment.|
|Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS)||Seismometer for measuring ground movements on Mars at different frequencies using six sensors, three short period sensors (SPS) and three very broadband sensors (VBB). The instrument was developed by a consortium led by the French space agency (CNES). Germany provided the levelling system (LVL), which was developed and built at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen.|
|Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE)||RISE records the shift in the frequencies of radio communications (Doppler effect) in order to measure tiny fluctuations in the inclination of Mars’ axis of rotation, indicating uneven distributions of mass within the planet and the state of its core.|
Elke HeinemannGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)Public Affairs and CommunicationsTelephone: +49 2203 601-2867
Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
Prof.Dr. Tilman SpohnHP³ Principal InvestigatorGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)
DLR Institute of Planetary ResearchTelephone: +49 30 67055-300
Fax: +49 30 67055-303Linder HöheContact
Ulrich KöhlerPublic relations coordinatorGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)Institute of Planetary ResearchRutherfordstraße 2Contact
Flight over the InSight landing site in Elysium Planitia
On 26 November 2018, the NASA InSight probe landed on Elysium Planitia on Mars at 4.5 degrees north and 135.9 degrees east. This video shows an overflight over the landing site and its surroundings. The video was based on a digital terrain model generated with stereo image data acquired by DLR's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) of the DLR.
InSight mission – Diagnostic run for the 'Mole' on MarsThe German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will command the Mars ‘Mole’ to begin a short new round of hammering at the end of March. The seismometer and the camera will closely monitor the movement of the Mole.
InSight mission: the Mars ‘Mole’ takes a breakAs part of NASA’s InSight mission, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) developed a penetrometer designed to dig three to five metres below the surface of Mars and measure the heat emanating from the planet’s interior.
Good luck ‘Mole’ – DLR’s HP3 experiment starts hammering into the Martian soilOn 28 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) ‘Mole’ fully automatically hammered its way into the Martian subsurface for the first time. In a first step, it penetrated to a depth between 18 and 50 centimetres into the Martian soil with 4000 hammer blows over a period of four hours. "On its way into the depths, the mole seems to have hit a stone, tilted about 15 degrees and pushed it aside or passed it," reports Tilman Spohn, Principal Investigator of the HP3 experiment. "The Mole then worked its way up against another stone at an advanced depth until the planned four-hour operating time of the first sequence expired. Tests on Earth showed that the rod-shaped penetrometer is able to push smaller stones to the side, which is very time-consuming.
InSight mission – DLR 'Mole' deployed on surface of MarsIt stands vertically on flat ground, ready for its historic mission. At 19:18 CET on 12 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) or 'Mole' was deployed on the Martian surface using the NASA InSight mission's robotic arm. In the coming weeks, the remote controlled penetrometer is expected to make space history by becoming the first probe to reach a depth of up to five metres in the Martian subsurface.
Exploration of the interior of Mars beginsIt was a task that required centimetre precision. Over the last few weeks, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have measured every rock shown in the images of the InSight landing site and used the radiometer that is part of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) experiment to analyse the dust on the surface of Mars, in order to determine the ideal point for deploying the InSight mission's instruments.
DLR's HP3 Mole on board NASA's InSight mission soon to land on MarsIt will be the deepest hole ever hammered into another celestial body using manmade technology. During the NASA InSight mission, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the Mole, which was developed and built by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will penetrate up to five metres deep into the Martian soil to measure the temperature and thermal conductivity of the substrate materials there.