How Much Did NASA Spend on the Mars InSight Landing?

Your holiday travel has nothing on NASA’s Mars InSight landing mission. The probe launched on May 5, 2018, and successfully touched down on the red planet on Nov. 26, 2018. The Apollo 11 moon landing captivated the world in 1969, but Mars is the next frontier in the solar system. InSight isn’t NASA’s first mission to the planet nor its first Mars landing, but it is the first mission of its kind, and the price isn’t cheap. How much did NASA spend on the Mars InSight landing and what is the mission? We’re about to find out.

How much did the Mars Insight landing cost NASA?

A replica of the probe used in NASA's Mars InSight landing in 2018.

This is what nearly $1 billion gets you. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Space exploration isn’t cheap, and NASA poured plenty of money into InSight’s trip to Mars. The breakdown looks a little something like this:

  • $650.4 million: Amount NASA spent on the InSight probe and mission, according to SpaceNews.
  • $163.4 million: Cost of the launch using Atlas 5 rockets.
  • $180 million: Amount of money French space agency CNES and German space agency DLR contributed to the mission.
  • $993.8 million: total cost for the hardware and the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The mission was scheduled to commence in March 2016 because of an equipment leak, according to Space.com. Fixing the problem added nearly $154 million to the total cost.

What is InSight doing there?

Tom Hoffman, project manager of NASA's Mars InSight landing, points to the landing site.

The InSight lander is the first that will record data from beneath Mars’ surface. | Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

There is some debate about whether the United States and NASA should be spending so much money on missions to the red planet. The Mars InSight landing is expensive, but it’s also the first mission of its kind.

Previous Mars missions roamed the surface, snapped pictures, and occasionally scooped some Martian soil, but InSight is different. It’s going to stay still to collect its data.

  • A seismometer for recording quakes and other tremors;
  • A thermometer for tracking the temperature;
  • A radio transmitter that will use the Doppler effect to detect rotation axis wobble;
  • And a drill that inserts itself nearly 20 feet into the surface to measure heat flow beneath the surface.

All that equipment figures into InSight’s full title. The short name stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport. So we should be thankful they’re calling it InSight.

Have there been other successful Mars landings?

NASA engineer Kris Bruvold reacts after the successful Mars landing by the InSight spacecraft.

The Mars InSight landing is one of NASA’s few successful touchdowns on the planet. | Al Seib/AFP/Getty Images

Reaching Mars isn’t a new concept for NASA. The Mariner 4 flyby, its first successful Mars mission, happened in 1964. Other Mariner missions sent back thousands of photos through 1971, but Mars landings are much rarer. Only seven NASA Mars landings prior to InSight ended successfully, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

  • Viking 1 landed in 1975 and operated for more than 2,200 Martian days. A day on Mars lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes, so it is slightly longer than an Earth day.
  • Viking 2 also made it to the surface in 1975. It worked for nearly 1,300 Martian days.
  • Sojourner landed in 1996, but it worked for only about 86 Martian days.
  • Spirit launched in June 2003, landed in January 2004, and was operational for more than 2,220 days on Mars
  • Opportunity also landed on Mars in January of 2004. It was supposed to last 90 days, but it still worked in June 2018 when a massive dust storm engulfed the planet.
  • Phoenix touched down in May 2008 and ended its mission in November of that year.
  • Curiosity hit the Martian surface in 2011 and was still working at the time of the Mars InSight landing.

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