InSight: A Discovery Mission to Mars


InSight: A Discovery Mission to Mars

About the Speaker

Dr. Bruce Banerdt is a planetary geophysicist, working in the Earth and Space Sciences Division at JPL since 1977. His research focuses on the geological history of the planet Mars and geophysical investigations of the interiors of terrestrial planets using analyses of gravity, magnetic, topographic and seismic data. He has participated in numerous planetary flight instrument teams, including the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeters on Mars Observer and Mars Global Surveyor, the Synthetic Aperture Radar on the Magellan mission to Venus, the Seismometer on the NetLander mission to Mars (cruelly canceled before launch) and the SESAME Acoustic Sounder on the European Rosetta comet mission.

In addition, he served as the Project Scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers for six years, helped develop a broad-band MEMS seismometer, and has been working for the past 25 years to send seismometers to other planets, particularly Mars.

He holds a B.S. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Geophysics from the University of Southern California. He has served on many NASA and National Academy of Sciences advisory panels on planetary and space science and has published over 60 journal articles, reports and book chapters.

Dr. Banerdt is currently the Principal Investigator of the InSight Discovery mission, a Mars geophysical lander that will launch in March of 2016 and spend an entire Mars year measuring seismic activity, heat flow and planetary rotation.



The InSight mission to Mars, the twelfth mission in NASA’s Discovery Program, will launch from Vandenberg AFB in California in March of 2016. It will land six months later in Elysium Planitia to begin a two-year primary mission. It reuses much of the design from the previous Phoenix mission to control cost and risk, two things that are critical for the selection and success of a cost-capped Discovery mission.

Unlike previous missions to Mars, which have focused on surface features and chemistry, InSight aims to explore the interior of the planet down to its very core. The planet Mars is a keystone in our quest for understanding the early processes of terrestrial planet formation and evolution. Unlike the Earth, its overall structure appears to be relatively unchanged since a few hundred million years after formation. Unlike the Moon, it is large enough that the pressure-temperature conditions within the planet span an appreciable fraction of the terrestrial planet range. Thus the large-scale chemical and structural evidence within Mars should tell us a great deal about the processes of planetary differentiation and thermal evolution.

InSight will pursue its fundamental science goals by performing the first comprehensive surface-based geophysical measurements on Mars, using seismology, precision tracking, and heat flow measurements. The limitation to a single location provides challenges to traditional seismology, which can be overcome with the application of single-station techniques that have been developed for terrestrial observations.


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Publication Date



Grand Forks, ND

InSight: A Discovery Mission to Mars