JEFFERSON COUNTY, Count - Crews at Lockheed Martin in Jefferson County have gotten the go ahead to begin building the next Mars lander -- InSight.
InSight will land on Mars in 2016. The lander has a robotic arm that will deploy surface and burrowing instruments from France and Germany to investigate the planet's interior.
The goal is study how Earth-like planets form.
"We move from doing the design and analysis to building and testing the hardware and software that will get us to Mars and collect the science that we need to achieve mission success," said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
InSight was designed by workers at the Waterton Canyon facility and the lander will be built there.
Construction has been started on the core structure.
"It will go into our cleanroom later this year," said Gary Napier, spokesman for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.
InSight will use a Lockheed Martin spacecraft design from the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander. However, the Phoenix examined ice and soil on Mars in 2008, while InSight will investigate how Earth and other rocky planets developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will get information about those interior zones.
"We will incorporate many features from our Phoenix lander into InSight, but the differences between the missions require some modifications for the InSight spacecraft," said Stu Spath, InSight program manager for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "For example, the InSight mission duration is 630 days longer than Phoenix, which means that the lander will have to endure a wider range of environmental conditions on the surface.”
Learn more about InSight: http://insight.jpl.nasa.gov