Mars is the second-most studied planet — only behind our own — but we know virtually nothing about its interior. All astronomers have to go by is models and theories, but no concrete evidence.
NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission aims to change that. InSight will touch down Monday (Nov. 26) around 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT), in a “6 minutes of terror” touchdown that you can follow live here at Space.com. Shortly thereafter, the lander will begin looking beneath the surface of Mars to reveal the secrets within the Red Planet.
About 4.5 billion years ago, the eight planets of our solar system were formed. All eight planets were formed from a clumpy disk of rock, ice and debris orbiting the young sun. Fast-forward to the present and we now see a distinct difference between the inner and outer planets. The terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) all have a dense, rocky structure, with only one able to support life. The Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) are all primarily gas and swollen up to enormous sizes. The question that astronomers still can’t answer, though, is how did these terrestrial planets form and evolve? [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Full Coverage]
Thanks to modern technology and perseverance, astronomers have tried to answer this question in a period of extensive exploration of one of our closest neighbors, Mars. However, previous missions have only been able to scratch the surface. Where landers, rovers and orbiters before it have been in hot pursuit of water on the dry, sandy surface, or designed to study the planet’s tiny atmosphere, InSight is delving deeper into the unknown. By putting an ear to the ground, astronomers will get a more comprehensive understanding of the Red Planet’s core, mantle and crust.