InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars
InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, complements missions orbiting Mars and roving around on the planet's surface. The lander's science instruments look for tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars, study how much heat is still flowing through the planet, and track the planet's wobble as it orbits the sun. This helps answer key questions about how the rocky planets of the solar system formed.



NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to Mars was launched on 5 May 2018 and landed in ‘Homestead Hollow’ in the Elysium region on 26 November 2018. InSight is the first geophysical observatory on Mars and investigates the Martian interior using the CNES-built seismometer SEIS, the DLR-built Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package HP3, and the JPL Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE). The lander is also equipped with a suite of ancillary sensors to measure winds, atmospheric temperatures, magnetic fields, and surface temperatures. The latter are determined using the HP3 radiometer.

The main scientific questions addressed by the InSight mission are: What is the structure of the Martian crust? Is Mars geologically active today? What is the heat budget of the planet? Can Marsquakes pose a threat to future manned bases? What happened to the Martian magnetic field? DLR’s HP3 probe attempted to contribute to answering these questions by measuring the planet’s heat flow directly (Grott et al., 2020), but unexpected soil properties at the landing site prevented the successful deployment of the heat flow probe (Spohn et al., 2022a, 2022b).

DLR scientists are involved in data analysis of the extended mission. Highlights include the detection of the so far most distant marsquake with magnitude 4.2 (Horleston et al., 2022), location in the vicinity of Vallis Marineris. The likely cause of marsquakes in the Cerberus Fossae region was further explored and is thought to be caused by intrusive volcanism (Stähler et al., 2022). Interpretation of the marsquake travel times also yields constraints on the interior structure (Huang et al., 2022), and thus thermal evolution of the planet (Plesa et al., 2022). The seismic waves also provide evidence on the variation of crustal composition or density (Kim et al., 2022), which is relevant for studies of the gravity data gathered by orbiters (Wieczorek et al., 2022). The mission ended in December 2022 after a very successful extended mission, when the expected buildup of dust prevented the solar array to sufficiently recharge the batteries.

The HP3 experiment was developed and operated by DLR.

Hardware Participation of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research

  • HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package)

  • Infrared-Radiometer

Scientific Participation of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research

  • HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package)

  • SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure)

Further DLR Participation

  • Institut für Optische Sensorsysteme
  • Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme
  • Institut für Systemdynamik und Regelungstechnik
  • Institut für Systemleichtbau
  • Raumflugbetrieb und Astronautentraining