Within the next seven months, NASA will subject the InSight lander to a series of tests to ensure it can survive a grueling trip to the red planet. Before it lifts off in March 2016, it will have to undergo two thermal vacuum tests, which will expose it to extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressures that it will experience on Mars. For the first one, it will be in "cruise configuration" -- wherein the lander is tucked inside an aeroshell capsule -- a form it will assume during its six-month trip to its destination. The lander will also be tested for electronic interference between its various parts, as well as for its ability to endure vibrations that simulate a rocket launch.
InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is equipped with drills and other tools to study Mars far beneath all the rock and dust. It will measure seismic waves, subsurface temperatures, and the interior of the planet in general -- all for the sake of gathering data to shed light on how rocky planets like ours form and evolve. In addition, the scientists are hoping to apply any technical knowledge they gain from its development, testing and actual operation to future Mars missions, including a manned one in 2030.