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Next Mars mission to probe Red Planet's core

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The lander will carry four instruments, which will determine Mars' rotation axis and measure the seismic waves and heat flowing through and from the planet's interior. The craft will also sport a robotic arm and two cameras, researchers said.

InSight builds on technology used in NASA's Phoenix lander mission, which confirmed the presence of subsurface water ice near the Martian north pole in 2008. This heritage helped convince NASA that InSight could stay within its relatively low budget, officials said.

Insight beat out two other finalists to become NASA's 12th Discovery-class mission. The other two contenders were Comet Hopper, which would have landed on a comet multiple times to study how the body changed on its trip around the sun, and the Titan Mare Explorer, or TiME.

TiME would have landed on the methane-ethane seas of Saturn's huge moon Titan, providing the first direct exploration of an ocean beyond Earth.

The selection of InSight may help reaffirm NASA's dedication to Mars exploration despite recent financial troubles. The White House's proposed 2013 federal budget cuts the agency's planetary science efforts by 20 percent, with much of the funding coming out of the Mars program.

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