NASA Picks Four Potential Landing Sites for 2016 Mars Mission

Mars is the planet we have explored most in the solar system but we are not even close to uncovering the mysteries of the red planet.  NASA has an unmanned Mars lander mission scheduled for 2016. Currently, scientists are evaluating potential landing sites for the lander. From 22 potential landing sites, NASA has now narrowed down to four.

NASAs Mars Insight Lander

NASAs Mars Insight Lander Image Source

The four sites are located near each other in an equatorial plain located in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. This choice wasn’t guided by the suitability of the site for mission objectives. Mission safety and survival were the main concerns.

These four sites are the safest for landing because of the smooth terrain which has a few rocks and little slope. All the four are located in an area near the equator to ensure that the lander’s solar array has adequate power all year round. The region also has low elevation to ensure there is sufficient atmosphere above the site for a safe landing.

What Is The Mission About?

The lander is known as InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport. It is set to launch in March 2016, travel to Mars for six months and land in September 2016.

The probe will explore the interior of Mars and not the surface. This study will help us gain a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system including Earth. Being a stationery lander, it will not move about on the surface of mars like the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Now NASA scientists will focus two of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s cameras to study the four sites and select the best site for the landing mission.