The NASA Mars InSight mission, which is set to launch on May 5, will try to gather as much data as possible about Earth's neighbor in the solar system.
InSight, which stands for Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport, will finally launch to Mars after a two-year delay. Here's why the mission is so important for humankind.
What Will InSight Do In Mars?
The NASA InSight launch will be two years in the making. NASA already started testing the spacecraft in 2015 for a planned 2016 takeoff, but InSight was delayed due to various technical problems. One of the problems is a vacuum leak in the primary science equipment of InSight.
NASA, however, is now moving ahead with the May 5 launch of InSight, with the spacecraft expected to land on Mars on Nov. 26. InSight's landing spot is Elysium Planitia, a vast expanse without any mountains or even large rocks in the area.
The location was not chosen as a mistake, nor was it the only option. NASA specifically chose the nothingness of Elysium Planitia because InSight is not interested in what is on Mars's surface, but rather what lies underneath.
InSight will have a seismometer to try to detect events such as marsquakes, landslides, meteor strikes, and duststorms. It will also take measurements of the thickness and composition of the planet's crust, mantle, and core. The spacecraft will also come with a heat probe, to try to measure how much and how fast heat is escaping from Mars.
What Will We Learn From InSight?
According to the InSight mission's principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt, the data that the spacecraft will collect will "prime NASA on all the geological processes" that have persisted on Mars for the past billions of years.
By knowing this information, scientists may be able to figure out how Mars formed, and how the Red Planet evolved into what it is now today.
The true value of the InSight mission, however, goes beyond Mars. With the data that it will collect and the analysis that will follow, scientists may be able to discover more about rocky exoplanets in general. This is impossible to do on Earth, as the lively geology of the planet has wiped out evidence of its past.
That is not the case for Mars though, due to its stagnant geology. The Red Planet will provide scientists with valuable information because, in its current state, it remains pretty close to how it was when it was formed.