It’s safe to say that “Houston, we’ve had a problem” is not something that space explorers love to hear. For decades now, NASA has spearheaded the exploration of the heavens through both manned and unmanned missions. The objective? To get insights into what lies in the great beyond.
Given the fact that Mars is a close neighbor of Earth, the red planet has elicited plenty of excitement among space enthusiasts. In a bid to quench some of this curiosity, several missions to Mars have been initiated. Some missions like the Curiosity rover expedition have attracted plenty of public interest over the years.
Eager to learn more about Mars, NASA recently launched a new space mission to the fourth planet from the sun. Aptly named InSight, the latest venture is expected to give us plenty of intel about the constitution of Mars.
Shortly after it touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018, NASA’s Mission Control center exploded in elation. In truth, the celebrations were justified, the latest venture was a milestone moment in human history for it was only the 8th time that we’ve been able to successfully land on Mars.
Being an acronym, InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
The InSight Mission Lander was deployed in the hopes of relaying data back to earth about Mars after gathering up information using a medical-like checkup.
Interestingly, this is the very first time that Mars’s interior has been closely studied with this much detail. Over the years, we’re set to learn more about the planet’s core, mantle, and the crust. This information is going to prove crucial to our understanding of the functioning of the red planet.
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You’ll be pleased to learn that NASA’s Insight Lander is photogenic. Specially designed with an in-house camera, the Insight Lander was able to make use of its robotic arm to extend out and capture itself in all its glory.
The image quickly made its rounds around the web and we were able to check out a closer look at Mars surface features. Fascinatingly, the “selfie” photograph consisted of a mosaic of 11 images. The same imaging technique previously deployed on NASA’s Curiosity rover mission. Essentially, all the images are added up and grouped to give one result after stitching.
NASA’s Mission Control team were also able to have a look at Insight’s “workspace”. This refers to the region that lies directly in front of the spacecraft. Spanning a couple of weeks, the scientists were able to able to carefully study the images and decide just where the instruments had to be positioned.
The instruments in question were the seismometer and heat-flow probe. Since both of these instruments work best when they are next to the ground, it was essential that the scientists and engineers found a perfect location that didn’t contain rocks bigger than half an inch.
Remarkably, even before touchdown, the landing zone for the Insight Lander had been chosen. The region called Elysium Planitia was selected beforehand since it contains little rock material. Scientists believe that the region was formed after a meteor impact left a depression that later on filled up with sand.
Given this constitution, it provided just the right conditions for the Insight Lander to thrive and send back accurate data back to earth.
On April 6, 2019, a faint seismic signal was detected by the Insight Lander. This was a monumental occurrence since it represented the first time trembles were observed to originate from within Mars. At present, NASA scientists are sifting through the data to ascertain just the cause of the signal.
Despite registering the very first recorded Marsquake, the seismic event was too faint to provide NASA with concrete data about the interior mappings of Mars. Thankfully, one of Mars unique features is the fact that it contains an extremely quiet surface thus enabling the seismometer to pick up on even the faintest of rumbles.
This is in contrasts to earth’s surface which constantly experiences seismic noise thanks to the vagaries of weather and ocean tides. This admirable trait is one of Mars surface features which has favored exploration on the planet.
With the seismometer having been installed on December 19, 2019, scientists are hopeful that they’ll be able to learn plenty about Mars interior. The expectation is that the data obtained will prove instrumental in explaining just how other rocky worlds like the Moon and our very own Earth came into being.
Being a windy region, Elysium Planitia frequently experiences dust storms which tend to leave the Insight Lander dusty.
Having mentioned that, it’s worth pointing out that previous Mars explorations like the Opportunity rover were able to receive dust sediments on various occasions and get the dust completely blown away later on.
So far, the Insight Lander has been able to spot a single passing wind vortex. This event happened on February 1, when the two solar panels were able to receive tiny bumps in power which suggested that some fraction of dust had gotten blown away.
Over time, the wind actions on the planet are expected to provide scientists with data on the frequency of dust clearings. This is likely to play a vital part in the design of future unmanned spacecraft.
There’s plenty to be hopeful of as exploration continues on Mars. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until the technology becomes available for manned exploration on the red planet.
At AstroReality, we’ve created augmented reality takes on what Mars looks like in the solar system. In the coming June, AstroReality is going to officially launch our MARS Pro model – with more detailed Mars surface feature for you to explore Mars with courage and curiosity. This 3D model of Mars is intuitive enough that you’ll be able to guide yourself around the planet and experience the wonders of our universe. Peep our collection today for a dose of inspiration!