NASA studying four landing site options for 2016 Mars mission
The process of selecting a site for NASA's next landing on Mars, planned for September 2016, has narrowed to four semifinalist sites located close together in the Elysium Planitia region. The mission known by the acronym InSight will study the Red Planet's interior, rather than surface features, to advance understanding of the processes that formed and shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system, including Earth. - NASA / JPL-Caltech
NASA is weighing candidate landing sites for its next mission to the surface of Mars, a three-legged probe that will study the Red Planet's core in 2016.
The space agency has four potential landing sites in mind for the new InSight Mars lander. The spacecraft is slated to launch in March 2016 and land on the Red Planet six months later.
"We picked four sites that look safest," geologist Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "They have mostly smooth terrain, few rocks and very little slope."
NASA's InSight mission is a $425 million expedition to determine if the core of Mars is liquid or solid, and why the planet's crust appears to lack tectonic plates like those found on Earth. The probe's name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
Golombek is leading NASA's site-selection process for the Mars InSight mission. Each of the four potential InSight landing sites is near one another in an area of the equatorial region of Mars called Elysium Planitia.
On a NASA-issued map, the InSight landing site candidates appear to be clustered in a zone north of Gale Crater — where the huge Curiosity rover landed in 2012 — and to the northwest of Gusev Crater, where the smaller Spirit rover landed in 2004. NASA will now use its powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around the Red Planet to further study the potential landing sites and eventually make a final decision.
This artist's concept depicts the stationary NASA Mars lander known by the acronym InSight at work studying the interior of Mars. The InSight mission (for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is scheduled to launch in March 2016 and land on Mars six months later. - NASA / JPL-Caltech
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