NASA’s Curiosity mission has gone swimmingly thus far, so to continue riding the coattails of success, the agency has announced an additional mission to Mars planned for 2014. Rather than exploring the surface, however, NASA wants to see what’s below the planet’s rocky red exterior.
Dubbed “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport” (InSight), the new spacecraft will use a device called Tractor Mole to dig up to 16 feet under Mars’ top soil. The Mole is basically like one big knife; a “14-inch (35-centimeter) hallowed-out, electromechanically-festooned stake” designed to drive down into the soil and drag a tether along behind it.
“InSight is going [to] take heartbeat and vital signs of the Red Planet for an entire Martian year, two Earth years,” said Sue Smrekar, deputy project scientist for InSight. “We are really going to have an opportunity to understand the processes that control the early planetary formation.”
Going below the surface allows NASA to get away from the sun’s influence, giving them a better understanding of how exactly the Red Planet works. I guess humans have become bored with exploring Earth. It’ll be interesting to see what mysteries NASA finds when InSight goes on its maiden voyage in a few years’ time.