NASA has been credited for sending a number of missions to Mars and Insight is another one on its list. But what sets Insight apart from the other missions is that it is literally a ground-breaking lander. While the previous orbiters have observed the red planet from above, rovers have crept over the surface; the Insight has been designed to explore what’s on inside the planet.
The Insight which is an abbreviated word stand for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations will be the first unmanned robotic lander to study the Martian crust, as well as its mantle and core. As stated by Bruce Banerdt, Insight’s principal investigator, the goal of the InSight, is to better understand the birth of our planet Earth and that understanding will be obtained by first understanding the composition of Mars. Scientists also believe that the understanding of Mars from within could help them better understand the evolution of other rocky planets as well as exoplanets.
After its successful landing on the planet’s surface, the 20-feet wide solar-powered robot will use a variety of instruments and try to unlock the hidden secrets of the structure of Mars. Insight’s robotic arm will place an advanced seismometer to listen for and analyze the vibrations of “marsquakes” and asteroid strikes. The seismic waves which have been modified while passing through the different layers will enable the scientists to determine what constitutes the composition of those layers.
In addition to the ultra-sensitive seismometer, Insight is also equipped with a thermal probe which can be hammered 16 feet beneath the surface to measure the heat flow from inside the planet. It will conduct these experiments near the Mars’ equator in a region known as Elysium Planitia. The deeper it will go, higher the temperature will rise-which will help the researchers to calculate the temperature prevailing in Mar’s deep interior. The spacecraft will also measure the shift in the radio signals transmitted between it and Earth. It will help in figuring out how much Mars’ North Pole wobbles over the course of a Martian year. The size and frequency variation will reveal the clues about the red planet’s core, including its size and density.
The NASA robot also carries with itself a microchip containing the names of 2.4 million people etched on it.
The Mars Insight Lander is scheduled to be launched on May 5 at about 4 a.m. The spacecraft will be the first interplanetary mission to be launched from the West Coasts, and so the early birds can expect an aerial treat by briefly watching the spacecraft commencing its journey to the Mars.
Picture provided by NASA