New lander to help US scientists study how Mars formed
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is going to get some company.
The U.S. space agency on Monday selected a small Mars lander for a hotly contested small planetary science mission to launch in 2016.
Unlike Curiosity, a car-sized surface rover that landed on Aug. 6 to search for habitats where microbial life could thrive on Mars, the new probe will be focused on what is happening deep in the planet's core.
The lander, called InSight, will include a French-built seismometer to determine if Mars has "Marsquakes" and a thermometer to measure how much heat is coming from the planet's core.
While it will not be as elaborately outfitted as Curiosity, which has 10 instruments for chemical analysis and other studies, InSight will host a German-built drill that can hammer 30 feet (9 meters) into the Martian crust, officials said.
The point of the mission is to figure out how Mars formed, information that scientists say will give them insight into how rocky bodies, like the Earth, were created.
The project was vying against two other proposed missions for $425 million in NASA funding and a ride into space.
The contenders were an innovative project to explore a liquid methane lake on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and a robotic hopper that would sprint around the surface of a comet measuring how sunlight changes the surface.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which is overseeing the Curiosity mission, will lead InSight.
The solar-powered lander will be designed to last two years. — Reuters
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