New Instruments on Mars

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New Instruments on Mars

Rebecca Tao, Staff Writer

In December of 2018, NASA positioned the SEIS seismometer package on Mars, an instrument directed at exploring the interior of the planet and update the activity on Mars. In Feb. 2019, the H3P, or Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe, was also placed on Mars with its job being to measure Mars’ temperature and how much heat flows from the interior of the planet. This was all done in an effort to make advancements in NASA’s latest mission: InSight.

After losing connection with the rover, Opportunity, back in Jun. 10, 2018 due to a deadly dust storm, NASA set out on placing new instruments on Mars in the InSight Mission. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is based on exploring what makes up Mars, specifically its crust, mantle, and core. Using this data, researchers will have a better understanding of how rocky planets in our solar system form, the tectonic movements on Mars, and how Mars’ interior compares to Earth. NASA considers Mars’  “‘vital signs’: its ‘pulse’ (seismology), ‘temperature’ (heat flow), and ‘reflexes’ (precision tracking),” and thereby, created instruments to cater to each measurement. InSight will also be the first mission that will especially target the study of the interior of Mars.

The InSight robot made a successful landing on Mars on Nov. 28, 2018, carrying the SEIS seismometer and H3P. However, it was just recently that the H3P was placed on Mars soil by the robot, following the SEIS. The HP3 is unique in that it has a probe that is capable of digging 16 feet below the surface of Mars. The H3P is also able to track the temperature of the interior of mars with its ribbon-shaped cable. This gives researches clues on how heat is conducted within Mars. On the other hand, the SEIS can listen to marsquakes and meteors with its seismometer; a seismometer is basically like a stethoscope and can tune in on very minute sounds and amplify them. Also, the SEIS can sense weather phenomena produce seismic waves like dust storms.

Bruce Banerdt, the InSight Principal Investigator, said that “The basic idea of InSight is to map out the deep structure of Mars. We know a lot about the surface of Mars. We know a lot about its atmosphere and even about its ionosphere, but we don’t know very much about what goes on a mile below the surface—much less 2,000 miles below the surface down to the center. This will be the first mission that’s going to Mars specifically to investigate that deep inside of Mars. Tom Hoffman, the InSight Project Manager has said that “InSight will help us find out the structure of Mars versus the structure of Earth and held up understand why earth is habitable.”

 

In summary, NASA’s new mission, the InSight robot, was launched early May of last year, but the robot just recently deployed two of its instruments that will aid in the discovery of the interior of Mars. The goal of the mission is the uncover what has never been done before in a Mars exploration, and learn more about Earth in the process.

Image courtesy of MARS.NASA.GOV