In case you hadn’t noticed, Mars is a pretty big deal these days. The Red Planet is our most similar neighbor and, unlike any other planet in our Solar System, we’ve explored a large chunk of it with multiple landers and rovers. It will almost certainly be the first planet that humans set foot on (besides Earth of course) and it may very well happen within our lifetime. That being said, there’s still a ton we don’t know about the planet and more specifically what its insides look like. Next year, we’ll get our first glimpse.
NASA’s InSight lander is slated to launch in just over a month and once it completes its long journey to Mars it will be the first piece of NASA hardware to send back data on the interior makeup of the planet. It promises to be a mission of many “firsts” and NASA just released a nice, in-depth rundown of what InSight will do.
InSight — which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, in case you were wondering — is equipped with sensitive seismometers that will detect vibrations from within Mars. These “marsquakes” are incredibly important to InSight’s research because it will help paint a picture of what lies beneath the surface.
“A seismometer is like a camera that takes an image of a planet’s interior,” Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator of InSight explains. “It’s a bit like taking a CT scan of a planet.”