InSight’s launch: Belgium involvement in a new Martian mission

InSight’s launch: Belgium involvement in a new Martian mission

30 April 2018 – On 5 May 2018, a delegation of scientists from the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) will attend to the launch of InSight, a NASA mission to Mars.

The InSight mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) aims to study the interior of the Red Planet, which still holds many mysteries. The InSight lander will monitor the “Martian earthquakes”, as well as the internal temperature and the rotation of the planet.

For the first time, a Martian mission will try to detect “marsquakes”, by using the seismometer SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure), whose team includes V. Dehant, from ROB. Another instrument, a self-hammering heat probe, will burrow up to 3-5 meters under the surface to determine Mars internal temperature, a depth never reached during the previous missions.

Artist’s view of the InSight Lander

Artist’s view of the InSight Lander. Credit: NASA/JPL.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium will also take part to the radio science data analysis of a third instrument, RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment). The radio signals exchanged between the Earth and RISE will allow tracking of the rotation variations of the planet, which reflect the structure of its interior. Pr. Véronique Dehant, responsible for the data analysis of RISE for ROB, will go to the Vandenberg Air Force Base (California) to attend InSight’s launch.

If everything goes as planned, InSight will take-off on May 5. Otherwise, the launch window is open until 8 June 2018. The Mars landing is expected to occur on 26 November 2018, and the mission will last at least 2 years. The instruments onboard InSight could work longer, along with the instruments of the ESA-Roscosmos mission ExoMars 2020. Then one could combine RISE data with those of LaRa (Lander Radioscience), the radio science instrument onboard ExoMars 2020, for a better scientific return. A team of the Observatory, led by Pr. Véronique Dehant, coordinates the conception of LaRa.

The radioscience research of the Royal Observatory of Belgium is funded by the Belgian Science Policy (Belspo) with the aid of the ESA-PRODEX program.

InSight launch press kit:
LaRa project website:
Follow LaRa on Twitter: @LaraExoMars


Véronique DEHANT
(not available from
3 May 2018)
v.dehant @
Tel: 02 373 02 66
Sébastien LE MAISTRE
sebastien.lemaistre @
Tel: 02 373 02 51
t.vanhoolst @
Tel: 02 373 06 68
Lê Binh San PHAM
lebinhsan.pham @
Tel: 02 373 03 03