A new Nasa probe lands on Mars.
InSight will study the interior of the planet to help understand how it has become an inhospitable desert.
Illustration of NASA shows the InSight probe on Mars, with solar panels already open and its instruments installed on the surface of the planet: the mission is expected to last about two Earth years
NASA’s InSight spacecraft shows Mars, with solar panels open and its instruments installed on the surface of the planet: mission is expected to last about two years.
NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed early Monday on a mission to try to understand how the planet – which scientists believe once had the potential to harbor life – has turned into the seemingly inhospitable desert of today.
Launched in May of this year, the spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere at almost 20,000 km / h and used a thermal shield, parachute, and retro-boosters to slow it down, reaching the ground at only about 8 km / h.
The news of the operation’s success was welcomed by the control of NASA’s mission at 5:54 a.m., just over eight minutes after its completion, the time the radio signals took to cross the approximately 146 million kilometers separating the red planet from Earth in this second traveling at the speed of light.
As its name says, InSight – Exploring the Interior of Mars Using Seismic, Geodetic, and Heat-Conducting Investigations – will use seismology and other related techniques to make an “X-ray” of the interior of the planet in search of information that could explain, for example, when, how and why his original magnetic field was “turned off,” leaving him vulnerable to intense solar radiation that “corroded” his atmosphere and “dried up” his water.
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With this, scientists also hope to have better parameters to evaluate the potential habitability of the thousands of exoplanets being discovered in the orbit of stars than our Sun.
“Earth and Mars were shaped from very similar materials,” says Bruce Banerdt, chief scientist at the InSight mission at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California, which leads the project. “Why did the finished planets turn out to be so different?” Our measurements will help us round the clock and understand that it produced a verdant Earth and a desolate Mars.
Budgeted at just over $ 810 million – including launch and operation costs during the one-year, 40-day, or approximately two-year, primary mission – InSight leads to board a series of equipment that will allow unpublished studies of the characteristics of Mars.
Its main instruments are a seismograph, the first to be placed on the surface of another planet to detect earthquakes, and a probe that will penetrate the ground to a depth between three and five meters to measure the heat escape from the interior of Mars, which will be placed on ground by a 1.8 meter robotic arm.
the first image sent by InSight probe
With these experiments, scientists hope to better understand how rocky planets such as Earth and Mars form and evolve by measuring the size of the Mars core and determining whether it is liquid or solid, the thickness and structure of the Martian crust, thickness and structure its mantle and composition, and how hot the interior of the planet is, as well as how powerful and frequent its internal seismic activity is and how often the impacts of meteorites on its surface.
In the case of Mars, measurements of its heat and other internal characteristics should be the key to finding out why, despite signs of a relatively dense atmosphere and temperatures that allowed liquid water to exist on its surface – basic conditions for the development or maintenance of life as we know – billions of years ago, today the planet is an inhospitable desert of rarefied air.
This is because heat helps to keep the core of a liquid planet moving.
On rocky planets such as Earth – and Mars is believed – this nucleus is made up of metals such as iron and nickel, elements that in motion produce an electric current, which, in turn, generates a field