Case study

InSight: the Mars robotic lander

Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

Artist's impression of InSight.
Artist's impression of InSight. Credit: NASA.

InSight is a NASA robotic lander mission due for launch to Mars in May 2018 and will land November 2018. The mission’s primary objective is to place a stationary lander, built by Lockheed Martin and based on the 2008 Phoenix lander, on the surface of Mars to study its early geological evolution to help scientists understand the early formation of the Solar System’s terrestrial planets. The lander will have 2 instruments on board, Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), to measure Mars’ seismic activity, the amount of heat flow from the interior, and the size and physical state of Mars’s core. By using the past heritage of the Phoenix lander, this is a low risk, low cost mission to Mars.

The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) is led by France in partnership with Germany Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The UK is providing the SEIS-SP instrument which will form part of the full SEIS instrument. The seismic activity package will assess the deep interior structure of Mars, including the capturing of signals from marsquakes, meteorite impacts, and even the tidal forces by Mars’ moon Phobos.


The UK Space Agency is funding Imperial College London, University of Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to develop 3 Short-Period sensors (SEIS-SP) and the associated electronics including the feedback board. SEIS-SP and its electronics will be integrated into the full SEIS package.

Published 13 March 2015
Last updated 25 October 2017 + show all updates
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