Washington, May 28 (IANS): In March 2016, NASA will send a unique Mars lander to explore the Red Planet's deep interior to find clues about how all rocky planets, including the Earth, formed and evolved.
The lander called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is about the size of a car and will be the first mission devoted to understand the interior structure of the Red Planet.
The current testing will help in ensuring that InSight can operate and survive in deep space travel and the harsh conditions of the Martian surface.
The spacecraft will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and land on Mars about six months later, the US space agency said.
"Today, our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way, making great progress on the journey to Mars. Together, humans and robotics will pioneer Mars and the solar system," said Jim Green, director of the NASA's Planetary Science Division.
The technical capabilities and knowledge gained from InSight, and other Mars missions, are crucial to NASA's journey to Mars, which includes sending astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s.
During the environmental testing phase at the Lockheed Martin's Space Systems facility in Denver, the lander will be exposed to extreme temperatures, vacuum conditions of nearly zero air pressure simulating interplanetary space, and a battery of other tests over the next seven months.
The first will be a thermal vacuum test in the spacecraft's "cruise" configuration, which will be used during its seven-month journey to Mars.
Other tests include vibrations simulating launch and checking for electronic interference between different parts of the spacecraft.
The testing phase concludes with a second thermal vacuum test in which the spacecraft is exposed to the temperatures and atmospheric pressures it will experience as it operates on the Martian surface.