Destination Mars: NASA Launches InSight
NASA initiated its Mars InSight mission with a launch in May that took place in the central coast of California. The spacecraft’s voyage will last for about six months; the mission of this rover is to study the interior of Mars and provide more details regarding the formation of rocky planets, similar to the Earth. Upon traveling ~300 million miles, InSight is expected to land on the surface of Mars in November.
After long periods of waiting caused by unanticipated delays such as the postponement of the launch from 2016 to 2018, NASA and Lockheed Martin were able to successfully create InSight, which has the ability to gather more information about the land of Mars, in order to acquire a deeper insight into understanding the processes that led to the creation of planetary bodies. InSight is equipped with devices to monitor seismic activity, and to compute the sizes of the core, mantle, and crust.
During its journey, periodic health checks and adjustments are made, and its position in space is carefully controlled, preparing it for its approach. To aid with navigation, a start tracker and sun sensor are attached to determine the InSight’s position in regard to the surrounding stars. Scientists continually monitor the speed and direction to minimize errors for its anticipated landing on Mars. During the ‘approach’ phase of the InSight mission, final adjustments will be made in order for the spacecraft to enter, descend and land safely.
After landing, InSight will collect data for approximately 708 Mars days, or 728 Earth days. The goal of the mission is to record a sonogram of Mars (which would reveal its interior structure, including the core and mantle). Additionally, probes would help detect heat radiating from the surface of Mars. This mission is expected to provide much deeper insight into the size and composition of the core, the thickness of the crust, as well as the intensity and frequency of marsquakes (Martian earthquakes).
InSight is fitted with an ultraprecise seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which has the ability to spot extremely small vibrations. The SEIS is inserted into the ground using a robotic arm structure, which is another unique feature of InSight. InSight also contains a device called the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), which allows scientists to locate InSight’s location in Mars with precision, allowing them to gather information regarding the structure of the core. NASA hopes this mission will be able to provide a glimpse into the evolutionary processes in the Solar System.
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