NASA InSight Mars lander could launch as early as May 5

NASA is talking up its next mission to Mars. The mission will see the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) stationary lander head to the Red Planet. That stationary lander will be the first ever mission meant specifically to explore deep into the interior of Mars.

InSight will also be the first mission since the Apollo moon landings that will place a seismometer for measuring quakes on the surface of another planet. JPL's Bruce Banerdt says that InSight is a scientific time machine and it will bring back information about the early stages of Mars' formation 4.5 billion years ago.

That seismometer isn't the only tool onboard InSight, the lander will also carry other instruments to gather data that are required to be stationary to be placed on and below the surface of Mars. Scientists will be able to study how the Martian crust, mantle, and core are different from Earth.

InSight has an international lineage with France's space agency having created the ultra-sensitive seismometer for detecting quakes. The German Aerospace Center developed the thermal probe that can bury itself up to 16-feet into the Martian surface. That tool will measure heat flowing from inside the planet.

InSight is currently at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California going through final prep for launch. Last Wednesday the spacecraft finished its spin test to confirm its center of gravity. InSight is scheduled to launch as early as May 5.