Mars

An­other ro­botic ex­plorer is bound for the Red Planet to in­ves­ti­gate its in­te­rior

Sky at Night Magazine - - 2018 SPACE MISSIONS -

No planet has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of plan­e­tary ex­plor­ers quite like Mars. In May, NASA will launch In­Sight (In­te­rior Ex­plo­ration Us­ing Seis­mic In­ves­ti­ga­tions, Geodesy and Heat Trans­port), a lan­der that will look into the heart of the Red Planet.

In­Sight is due to touch down on the Mar­tian sur­face in Novem­ber on Ely­sium Plani­tia, a flat area near the planet’s equa­tor. Once there it will ex­am­ine Mars from sur­face to core. By feel­ing for the slight wob­ble of Mars as it spins, tak­ing seis­mic mea­sure­ments and ob­serv­ing the heat flow through the planet, In­Sight will help plan­e­tary sci­en­tists on Earth build up a full pic­ture of what’s hap­pen­ing within the Red Planet.

Mars is a planet frozen in time: it has barely changed from its early for­ma­tion. While Mars was large enough to pull it­self into a sphere and dif­fer­en­ti­ate its in­ter­nal struc­ture into a core, a man­tle and a crust, it was so small that it quickly cooled, so­lid­i­fy­ing the struc­ture in place rather than con­tin­u­ing to evolve as Earth has done. By peer­ing into the planet with In­sight, re­searchers are plan­ning on tak­ing full ad­van­tage of this freeze-frame of what early plan­ets looked like.

In­Sight will delve be­neath the Mar­tian sur­face to dis­cover how plan­ets form

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