European Contributions to the InSight mission to Mars
November 25, 2018

European contributions to the InSight mission to Mars

NASA’s InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission will land on Mars on Monday 26th November at 19:53 GMT. Two of the mission’s three instruments are European-led:

  • The SEIS seismometer is led by Philippe Lognonné of the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris (IPGP), University Paris Diderot Paris, France.
  • The HP3 heat probe is led by Tilman Spohn of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, or DLR), Berlin.

The third instrument, the Radio Science Experiment (RISE) is led by William Folkner of NASA JPL and Veronique Dehant of the Royal Observatory of Belgium is a Co-Investigator.


SEIS will measure seismic vibrations caused by Marsquakes and meteorite impacts. The instrument was developed under the supervision of the French Space Agency (CNES) and IPGP and the team includes multiple European institutions:

  • France (the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE), Toulouse; the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP), Toulouse; Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie (IMPMC), Paris; the Navier Laboratory, Paris; Laboratory of Planetology and Geodynamics (LPG), Nantes; GéoAzur/Côte d’Azur Observatory, Nice and the Laboratoire de Métrologie Dynamique, Paris)
  • Germany (the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen)
  • Switzerland (ETH Zurich)
  • UK (Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, with support from STFC RAL Space) as well as the USA (NASA JPL, Marshall Space Flight Center and Princeton University).

Industrial contributors include the French space instrumentation company Sodern and several international partners.

SEIS team website:


HP3 will measure heat flow and physical properties by sending down a probe to 5 metres below the surface. As well as DLR, the team involves researchers from Austria (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Graz), France (Côte d’Azur Observatory, Nice) and Poland (Astronika, Warsaw).

DLR HP3 page:

Find out more

If you want to know more, there are some great resources on InSight around the web:

Cartoon guide to InSight from The Oatmeal

BBC InSight Diary by Prof Tom Pike of Imperial College London

BBC Guide to InSight: Mission to the Heart of Mars

ETH Zurich InSight page:

MPS InSight page:

CNRS news InSight article: