In the wake of successfully dropping the SUV-sizedÂ CuriosityÂ rover on Mars this month, NASA will send another robot to the Red Planet in 2016 to drill into the planetâ€™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 theÂ Jet Propulsion LaboratoryÂ 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 â€śsky crane,â€ť 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.
â€śThis is another big day for us out at JPL,â€ť said Gregg Vane, the labâ€™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 â€” minus the sky crane â€” in September 2016.
A German-built drill nick-named â€śthe moleâ€ť 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.
â€śWeâ€™ll be able to deduce the deep structure of Mars, which now is a total mystery,â€ť said Vane. â€śThat means all the way down to the core.â€ť
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