August 20th, 2018

NASA’s InSight Passes Halfway to Mars, Instruments Check In

This artist’s concept shows the InSight spacecraft, encapsulated in its aeroshell, as it cruises to Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight spacecraft, en route to a Nov. 26 landing on Mars, passed the halfway mark on Aug. 6. All of its instruments have been tested and are working well.

As of Aug. 20, the spacecraft had covered 172 million miles (277 million kilometers) since its launch 107 days ago. In another 98 days, it will travel another 129 million miles (208 million kilometers) and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region, where it will be the first mission to study the Red Planet’s deep interior. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The InSight team is using the time before the spacecraft’s arrival at Mars to not only plan and practice for that critical day, but also to activate and check spacecraft subsystems vital to cruise, landing and surface operations, including the highly sensitive science instruments.

April 12th, 2018

Inside The Cleanroom Where NASA’s New Mars Lander Waits to Launch

A few rule for the cleanroom where NASA’s new InSight Mars lander waits for launch. One, if you must sneeze, sneeze away from the spacecraft. Two, if you drop anything, let one of NASA’s escorts pick it up for you. Three, do not under any circumstances cross the black-and-yellow-striped tape and touch the spacecraft.

Oh also—an engineer tells a dozen media in a conference room at Vandenberg Air Force Base—do not lick the spacecraft. There’s always that one rebel, I suppose.

The reasons to behave ourselves are many, and they are serious. For one, InSight costs nearly a billion dollars, and although it’s engineered to survive the punishing journey to Mars, it’s not engineered to be licked. And two, this conference room is loaded with planetary protection specialists, whose oh-no-big-deal job is to make sure Earthling microbes don’t end up colonizing Mars. And not just for the solar system’s sake—NASA is obligated by international treaty to keep other planets clean. In just a month, it’ll fire InSight to the Red Planet, where the lander will drill to unravel the geological mysteries of our solar system’s rocky bodies.

May 2nd, 2017

Polish Kret will fly to Mars

Source: ASTRONIKA Sp. z o.o.

Source: ASTRONIKA Sp. z o.o.

Polish robot Kret will fly to Mars as part of NASA InSight mission in 2018 – said on Wednesday Dr. Jerzy Grygorczuk, VP of Astronika. Kret will be the first complete system provided by the Polish industry for such an important mission.
Polish company Astronika is the manufacturer of the robot that will dig into the surface of Mars and examine the properties of the Martian soil. The InSight mission, as part of which Kret will fly to Mars, is expected to last two Earth years.

“This is a success for Polish scientists. They are ready and competent to work with the world’s largest space agencies and to provide complex services” – emphasized Deputy Minister of Development Jadwiga Emilewicz.

Kret will go to Mars on a lander. A special robot arm will move it from the deck of the lander directly to the surface of the Red Planet. “Then it will start drilling. It will be in stages – not immediately to the depth of 5 meters. Every half meter it will take measurements. Kret will drag a 5-6 meter tail in the form of a tape which will be rolled into a tube in the opening made by the robot. It is equipped with a number of thermal sensors so that we can measure the thermal profile of the soil to the depth of 5 m. In addition, thermal conductivity gives information about the porosity of the soil and other physical properties. The purpose of all this is to find out how the Martian core works. The work of Mars’s core and its size is still unknown” – explained Jerzy Grygorczuk, VP of Astronika.

March 7th, 2016

Will NASA’s InSight Mars Mission Launch in 2018?

Artist’s depiction of InSight spacecraft on the surface of Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA had hoped its next Mars probe would have launched by now. Instead, the agency is mulling whether to spend an extra $150 million to fix a problem with the spacecraft and re-target liftoff for May 2018, the next time Earth and Mars favorably align for flight.

“The fact that I’m standing here talking to you, instead of gloating on the phone (from the Mission Control Center) is a clue that things haven’t gone as well as one may have hoped,” project scientist Bruce Banerdt told a Mars exploration planning group last week.

Launch of InSight, which is designed to study the deep interior of Mars, had been targeted for Friday, March 4. But preparations came to a sudden halt in late December after a nagging technical problem with the spacecraft resurfaced for a fourth time. By then, it was too late to finish another round of repairs before the 2016 launch window closed.

“Everything was ready to go, but then we kind of went off the rails,” Banerdt said.

December 29th, 2015

Launch of NASA’s next Mars mission delayed until at least 2018

NASA’s InSight lander is pictured inside Lockheed Martin’s satellite factory in Colorado. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Persistent problems with a seismometer instrument package will keep NASA’s InSight Mars lander from departing for the red planet during a March launch period, and officials said they will consider shelving the $675 million project if the issues prove too costly to fix.

The InSight spacecraft, a three-legged lander with instruments to study Mars’ interior structure, was supposed to launch in a 26-day window opening 4 March 2016.

Mars launch opportunities only come every 26 months, when the planets are in the right positions to make a direct journey possible.

“When you know you’re going to miss the window, it’s essentially game over, at least for this opportunity,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate.

“This is a case where the alignment of the planets matters, and in order to get from the Earth to Mars in the most efficient manner, they’re aligned about every 26 months,” Grunsfeld said 22 December. “So we’re looking at some time in the May 2018 timeframe for the next opportunity.”

September 4th, 2015

Send Your Name to Mars on NASA’s Next Red Planet Mission NASA


Mars enthusiasts around the world can participate in NASA’s journey to Mars by adding their names to a silicon microchip headed to the Red Planet aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch next year.

“Our next step in the journey to Mars is another fantastic mission to the surface,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “By participating in this opportunity to send your name aboard InSight to the Red Planet, you’re showing that you’re part of that journey and the future of space exploration.”

Submissions will be accepted until September 8, 2015. To send your name to Mars aboard InSight, go to:

August 20th, 2015

NASA to rely on Mars programme’s silent workhorse for years to come NASA


NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, aging and arthritic a decade after its launch, remains productive and is expected to be the primary pipeline for high-resolution maps of Mars for scientists and mission planners over the next decade.

Scientists who want to study Mars’ enigmatic history, tenuous water cycle and climate will continue to rely on the nearly $900 million MRO mission, and engineers charged with selecting landing sites for future Mars rovers, and eventual human expeditions, will use maps created from the orbiter’s imagery, officials said.

And the success of future landers, beginning with NASA’s InSight seismic probe next year, depend in part on MRO’s availability to relay data from the Martian surface to Earth.

July 28th, 2015

NASA Mars Orbiter Preparing for Mars Lander’s 2016 Arrival NASA

With its biggest orbit maneuver since 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will prepare this week for the arrival of NASA’s next Mars lander, InSight, next year.

A planned 77-second firing of six intermediate-size thrusters on July 29 will adjust the orbit timing of the veteran spacecraft so it will be in position to receive radio transmissions from InSight as the newcomer descends through the Martian atmosphere and touches down on Sept. 28, 2016. These six rocket engines, which were used for trajectory corrections during the spacecraft’s flight from Earth to Mars, can each produce about 22 newtons, or five pounds, of thrust.

“Without making this orbit change maneuver, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would be unable to hear from InSight during the landing, but this will put us in the right place at the right time,” said MRO Project Manager Dan Johnston of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

June 15th, 2015

NASA Prepares for First Interplanetary CubeSats NASA

When NASA launches its next mission on the journey to Mars – a stationary lander in 2016 – the flight will include two CubeSats. This will be the first time CubeSats have flown in deep space. If this flyby demonstration is successful, the technology will provide NASA the ability to quickly transmit status information about the main spacecraft after it lands on Mars.

The twin communications-relay CubeSats, being built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, constitute a technology demonstration called Mars Cube One (MarCO). CubeSats are a class of spacecraft based on a standardized small size and modular use of off-the-shelf technologies. Many have been made by university students, and dozens have been launched into Earth orbit using extra payload mass available on launches of larger spacecraft.

June 5th, 2015

The echo of meteorite impacts could tell us what’s inside Mars TechRadar

We’re told to never judge a book by its cover, but it’s apparently fine to judge what lies inside Mars by listening to the echoes of meteorite impacts.

We know very little about the interior of the Red Planet. We know that once it had a global magnetic field and active volcanoes, but it’s unclear if the core is still molten or not. If it is, plate tectonics and earthquakes (which are called marsquakes on Mars) are a possibility.

To find out, the next spacecraft to arrive on Mars will come equipped with precise seismometers to detect tremors. The InSight Lander will listen carefully for seismic waves caused by meteorites, and use the data to make some educated guesses at what materials it passed through along the way.