For the first time in a decade, the Air Force has opened up a rocket competition to launch …
In the wake of successfully dropping the SUV-sized Curiosity rover on Mars this month, NASA will send another robot to the Red Planet in 2016 to drill into the planet’s crust and, for the first time, piece together a picture of the Martian interior.
The $425 million robotic lander, named InSIGHT, will be built and operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, the high-flying hotbed of now-famous engineers and scientists who designed and assembled the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover and its heart-stopping “sky crane,” which lowered the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface.
On Monday morning, NASA officials informed JPL staff that InSIGHT had won funding over two other proposed missions.
“This is another big day for us out at JPL,” said Gregg Vane, the lab’s head of planning for solar system exploration.
Whereas Curiosity can roam the surface on six-wheels, InSIGHT will be planted in one spot after dropping onto the Martian surface — minus the sky crane — in September 2016.
A German-built drill nick-named “the mole” will pound 30 feet into the Martian crust to take the temperature of the planet, while a sensitive French-built seismometer will detect any Marsquakes. Together, the instruments will provide vital clues to how Mars formed.
“We’ll be able to deduce the deep structure of Mars, which now is a total mystery,” said Vane. “That means all the way down to the core.”
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