TECH
01/06/2015 13:31 BST | Updated 01/06/2015 13:59 BST

NASA Begins Testing InSight Lander Ahead Of Next Mission To Mars

NASA has begun testing the next spacecraft that will land on Mars, InSight.

These astonishing pictures show the inside process of the car-sized lander that will be heading to the 'red planet' in March 2016.

insight

InSight will be answering some of the vital questions about what lies beneath the surface of Mars as well as hoping to answer some of the questions surrounding its formation.

NASA says: "By studying the size, thickness, density and overall structure of the Red Planet's core, mantle and crust, as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet's interior, the InSight mission will provide glimpses into the evolutionary processes of all of the rocky planets in the inner solar system."

insight

InSight will use four main technologies to help unlock the secrets that lie beneath the surface of the planet:

SEIS - A seismometer will take precise measurements of the quakes that shake Mars as well as reading the minuscule tremors that travel throughout the planet.

HP3 - Essentially the world's most sensitive thermometer, the HP3 will hammer a probe five metres into the Martian surface where it'll deploy a thermometer to monitor minute changes in the way heat is dissipated from the planet's core.

RISE - This will use advanced radio signals to measure the gravitational pull that the Sun has on Mars. By studying the planet's wobble they'll be better able to understand what caused Mars to end up the way it did in the first place.

Cameras - OK so this is fairly self-explanatory however it does fulfil a vital role. Not only will it be able to take thousands of pretty pictures for us to set as desktop wallpaper it'll also be a crucial observational tool for checking on the instruments and making sure they're all operating.

Launching in March 2016, InSight will land in September and then remain operation on the planet for around 720 days before NASA decides whether to keep using it or not.