In a relatively low-budget mission, NASA said it would land a probe on Mars to study why it diverged in its evolutionary history to become so different from Earth.
The mission, dubbed "InSight," will study Mars' core to determine whether it is liquid or solid, and why the Red Planet has never developed tectonic plates like those responsible for the shape and configuration Earth, a NASA release reported Monday.
"InSight will get to the 'core' of the nature of the interior and structure of Mars, well below the observations we've been able to make from orbit or the surface," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
The mission, to be conducted by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will set a lander down on Mars in September 2016, carrying instruments to measure the planet's rotation and any seismic waves and heat in its interior.
"The recent successful landing of the Curiosity rover has galvanized public interest in space exploration, and today's announcement makes clear there are more exciting Mars missions to come," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.