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Mars InSight Lander

NASA's Mars InSight Lander is scheduled for launch in early May from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) will be the first space probe to study the internal structure of Mars and to determine the level of tectonic activity occurring on the planet.

It is hoped that the data gathered during its mission will give astronomers a better understanding of the processes involved in the formation of rocky planets such as our own.

InSight's specific mission goals are:

  • Determining the size, composition and physical state (liquid solid) of the core
  • Determining the thickness and structure of the crust
  • Determining the composition and structure of the mantle
  • Determining the thermal state of the interior
  • Measure the magnitude, rate and geographical distribution of internal seismic activity
  • Measure the rate of meteorite impacts on the surface

After launching, InSight's journey to Mars will take six months, with a landing date set for Monday, 26th November.

The probe's primary mission is expected to last 708 sols (Mars days), or roughly 728 Earth days.


  1. Mars InSight Lander   NASA

Mars InSight Lander

Illustration of the Mars InSight Lander - Image credit: NASA

Solar Orbiter

The launch of the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter spacecraft, originally planned for 2017, has been re-scheduled for October 2018.

Part of ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 Programme, the Solar Orbiter will carry a suite of ten state-of-the-art instruments to study the Sun in unprecedented detail, particularly its turbulent surface and high-speed, ever-changing solar wind.

According to ESA, the reason for delaying the launch is to make sure that all of the spacecraft's instruments are adequately tested on the ground, thus ensuring that the objectives of the mission are ultimately reached.

ESA's Solar Orbiter

Illustration of ESA's Solar Orbiter - Image credit: ESA

Space Launch System

NASA's Space Launch System, the super-rocket being developed to make deep space missions feasible by carrying heavier payloads into higher orbits, should be ready for its first (unmanned) test launch in 2018, if there are no delays in its construction schedule. Being assembled by Boeing, Space Launch System will be the largest rocket ever built, standing a total of 384 feet (117 meters) when carrying the Orion space capsule being developed by Lockheed Martin.

Technical specifications:

Length: 212 ft (64.6 m)
Diameter: 27.6 ft (8.4 m)
Empty Weight: 188,000 lbs (85,275 kg)
Material: Aluminum 2219
Engines: 4 RS-25
Thrust per engine: 512,000 lbs (232,242 kg)
Max. power level: 109% of rated thrust
Fuel: Liquid hydrogen
Oxidizer: Liquid oxygen


  1. Beyond Earth: Space Launch System   Boeing
  2. Space Launch System   Boeing
  3. New NASA video about the SLS   04.14.2016
  4. The Path To Mars   12.04.2014   Boeing
  5. NASA's Huge New SLS Rocket   10.30.2012

Space Launch System

Illustration of Space Launch System - Image credit: NASA