InSight mission

In­Sight - jour­ney to Mars

Artist’s impression of the NASA InSight lander on the Martian surface
Artist’s im­pres­sion of the NASA In­Sight lan­der on the Mar­tian sur­face
Image 1/2, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Artist’s impression of the NASA InSight lander on the Martian surface

Launched 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.
HP3 on the Martian surface
HP3 on the Mar­tian sur­face
Image 2/2, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR.

HP3 on the Martian surface

DLR's Mars 'Mole' HP3 on the Mar­tian sur­face af­ter be­ing re­leased by the In­Sight lan­der's robot­ic arm.

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

Launch5 May 2018 at 13:05 CEST (04:05 PDT)
Launch siteVandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA
Launch vehicleAtlas V-401 (AV-078)
Size57.3 metres
Launch weight333 tonnes (launch vehicle and InSight payload)
Upper stageCentaur with re-ignitable RL10-C engine
PropellantsThermally-stable kerosene (type RP-1) and liquid oxygen (launch vehicle); liquid hydrogen and oxygen (upper stage)
Mission durationA little over one Mars year (about two Earth years); 708 sols (Mars days) or 728 Earth days
Ground stations34-metre and 70-metre antennas belonging to the NASA Deep Space Network (California, Australia, Spain)


August 2012The US space agency NASA approves InSight as the twelfth mission in its Discovery programme

5 May 2018
13:05 CEST (04:05 PDT)

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
20:52 CET
Landing of InSight on Mars. Planned landing site: Elysium Planitia at 4.5° North, 135.9° East
Late 2020End of mission (nominal)

InSight lander

Mission control centreJet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena (Mission)
DLR Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC, Cologne) for HP3 experiments; CNES, SISMOC, Toulouse, SEIS
InSight dimensionsHeight: between 83 and 108 centimetres (compression of the legs can only be determined after landing)
Width with unfolded solar panels: 6 metres
InSight mass
(with transfer stage)
360 kilograms (727 kilograms)
Mass of scientific payload for InSight50 kilograms
Mass of solar panelsTwo panels, each 2.15 metres in diameter, with a total area of approximately seven square metres
Energy supply / generation from solar panelsOn 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.
CommunicationsVia 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 Heinemann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Pub­lic Af­fairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2867
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249

  • Prof.Dr. Tilman Spohn
    HP³ Prin­ci­pal In­ves­ti­ga­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    DLR In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-300
    Fax: +49 30 67055-303
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
  • Ulrich Köhler
    Pub­lic re­la­tions co­or­di­na­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-215
    Fax: +49 30 67055-402
    Rutherfordstraße 2
    12489 Berlin
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