February 11, 2014

CNES and NASA set to go to Mars together - SEIS seismometer central to the InSight mission

CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden signed an agreement in Washington D.C. Monday 10 February formalizing cooperation between CNES and NASA on the SEIS seismometer, the main instrument for the Mars InSight mission. The signing ceremony, which took place during French President François Hollande’s state visit to the United States, was attended by Geneviève Fioraso, Minister for Higher Education and Research, and John P. Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The InSight mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) aims to land a highly sophisticated and capable geophysical observatory on the surface of Mars to study its structure and composition, which are still poorly understood. The SEIS seismometer (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures) is the key instrument of this mission that will enable scientists to better understand the processes that shaped the Red Planet during its early formation and evolution by measuring its seismic activity.

The 12th mission of NASA’s Discovery solar system exploration programme, InSight will be launched in March 2016 and arrive on the surface of Mars in September 2016, where it will operate for a Martian year, i.e. roughly two Earth years.

The SEIS seismometer is a feat of engineering developed by CNES, the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (CNRS, Paris Diderot University) and world-leading research laboratories. CNES will deliver the instrument to NASA once it has integrated contributions from its partners (DLR for Germany, UKSA for the United Kingdom, ESA/Prodex for Switzerland and JPL for the United States).

On the occasion of this signing, Jean-Yves Le Gall stated: “France and the United States have been working together in space for more than 50 years and this exceptional relationship has already fostered many joint accomplishments. In particular, CNES is closely involved in the Martian adventure that NASA is pursuing with such success, as its main robotic exploration partner. After Curiosity, Mars exploration is poised to take a major new step forward with InSight. This mission, notably through the SEIS instrument provided by CNES, will acquire precious data to tell us more about the Red Planet and shed new light on how our own planet formed and evolved.”

CNES press contacts
Alain Delrieu Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 74 04 alain.delrieu@cnes.fr
Pascale Bresson Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 75 39 pascale.bresson@cnes.fr
Julien Watelet Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 78 37 julien.watelet@cnes.fr