NASA To Launch Mars Drill

By Amir Khan on August 21, 2012 9:40 AM EDT

Mars
With NASA's Curiosity rover roaming around the red planet, the organization announced its next Mars mission, which will delve into the planet's inner core (Photo: Creative Commons)

With NASA's Curiosity rover roaming around the red planet, the organization announced its next Mars mission, which will delve into the planet's inner core. The mission, known as InSight, will begin in 2016 and will attempt to find out what is going on under the Martian surface.

 "This has been something that has interested the scientific community for many years," John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, said, according to Discovery News. "Seismology, for instance, is the standard method by which we've learned to understand the interior of the Earth and we have no such knowledge for Mars."

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The rover will try to discern what the planet's core is made of and why it evolved differently than Earth, despite being at a comparable difference from the sun.

"Mars is our real first attempt to be able to understand what these terrestrial bodies go through in their early evolution," Jim Green, NASA's planetary sciences director, told Discovery News. "We know that that the interior of the Earth has been modified over time through its plate tectonics and its evolution. Mars, we're really clueless about."

The lander would be solar-powered and based off the successful Phoenix lander, which touched down on the red planet in 2008. The mission would be slated to last two years.

The mission was selected out of three possibilities for a new Discovery-class mission, which are low-cost ($425 million, not including the vehicle), and attempt to answer a specific scientific question. It beat out a mission to sail a robotic boat around Titan, one of Saturn's moons, and a robot that would study a comet.

NASA researchers said that while all of the missions were exciting, they ultimately selected the InSight mission because they felt it has the best chance to be built within the allotted time frame and be successful.

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