NASA back to Mars with the InSight Lander

InSight and its tools. Image credit: Nasa

Surely Mars is the planet that interested mankind the most in science and science fiction, from the myth of the Martians to colonization by 2050 the step is, to date, really short. It is the last of the rocky planets, with a diameter of just over half of the Earth but with an axial inclination and rotation period similar to those of our planet. We know very little about the internal structure of Mars, but 2 important aspects:

  • Unlike the Earth, it has probably never had a tectonic plate, Mount Olympus (the highest volcano in the solar system) demonstrating this by its 25 km height;
    The core of the planet has a radius of about 1500-2000 km but the mechanisms of “dynamo” that contribute to the formation of the planetary magnetic field are practically still (the planet has a very weak magnetic field).
  • Above all, the second makes the red planet the most difficult to reach, not so much for the journey as for gently resting on its surface. A weak magnetic field has caused the Sun with its wind of particles to have blown away in millions perhaps billions (depends on when the dynamo has stopped) for many years of the Martian atmosphere thus making the aerobraking procedures and the use of parachutes to say at least “difficult”: 50% of the missions on Mars missed the target or crashed.

In recent days, InSight is shown in the area known as Elysium Planitia, the second largest Martian volcanic area, ready to start its mission. Thus, we have “returned” to Mars, and we did it to try to understand how the rocky planets formed with an eye for the Red Planet. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (eg. internal exploration using seismic waves, geodesy and heat transport) will place a seismometer (SEIS) on the Martian surface and will begin to drill to a depth of 5 meters through a “mini drill” (HP3) with on-board sensor that will measure the thermal flow coming from the subsoil. After the 7 minutes of terror,  the lander sent the first photo of the landscape in the area where it landed and shortly after it took the first selfie of part of the instrumentation.

Image credit: Wikipedia


Image credit: Wikipedia

The mission has an expected duration of 1 Martian year (2 terrestrial years) and will try to understand if there is any seismic activity on Mars and if there were, thanks to it, the 3D reconstruction of the subsoil and the Martian core will be carried out improving the current knowledge of crust, cloak and internal structure. NASA, with a wonderful media initiative, has allowed anyone, by filling out a form, to land and accompany the lander on Mars: InSight brings with it two microchips (dimensions 8X8 mm) with the name of 2.4 million people who have joined this “campaign”. In the photos (source: Wikipedia, you may see InSight with all its tools and one of the two microchips containing part of the 2.4 million names.


Andrea Cuozzo

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