Lockheed Martin is set to begin construction on a robotic probe that NASA plans to send Mars to examine that planet’s interior.
NASA plans to launch the Insight lander from a California site in March 2016 and expects the spacecraft to reach its destination six months later, Lockheed said Monday.
The project aims to study the crust, mantle and core layers of rocky planets like Earth as well as further gain insights into internal planetary structures.
Lockheed will pattern InSight after NASA’s 2008 Phoenix Mars lander, which it also built.
“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, a program manager at Lockheed’s space systems segment.
“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,” Spath added.
The Insight team includes researchers from the U.S., Austria, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Poland, Japan, Switzerland and the U.K.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California manages the program.