On Saturday, United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V rocket carrying the next robot destined for the surface of Mars: Insight.
As the only planet (we’re aware of) that is entirely populated by robots, Mars has already seen an array of different machines specially designed to shed light the red planet’s mysteries, but none have been quite like Insight — which is actually short for the bot’s full name, Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport.
Unlike the Mars missions ranging from Viking to Curiosity, Insight won’t be roaming around the surface of Mars — it will stay planted where it lands. For four months, it will prepare to execute a series of elaborate tests and after all that waiting, it’ll set about its business which entails more sitting. In fact, the Insight lander won’t do much of anything for two full Earth years. But what it will be doing, is listening.
The Insight mission is based on the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) experiment, which includes an array of sensors including a seismometer so sensitive it can register ocean noises from Colorado. Using this suite of sensors, scientists hope to learn more about how Mars functions as a planet.