InSight Lands on Mars photo

Have you ever wondered whether there are quakes or temblors on Mars? What about how the planet formed?

Scientists intend to answer those questions and more. The InSight lander touched down at the end of November after a seven-month journey to the Red Planet.

According to NASA, InSight will give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago. It will study Mars’ crust, mantle and core.

One goal is to determine how rocky planets are formed and how they have evolved. InSight will study the interior of Mars to try to determine the thickness and structure of the planet’s crust, how warm the interior of the planet is, and whether the core of the planet is liquid or solid.

InSight also is working to determine how powerful and frequent internal SEISMIC activity is on Mars and how often meteorites impact the planet’s surface.

InSight Fact Box:

• Launched from California on May 5, 2018

• Landed on Mars on Nov. 26

• Mission duration: 709 Sols (Mars days) or 728 Earth days

• InSight’s robotic arm is more than 5 feet 9 inches long

• InSight weighs 794 pounds

One of the coolest features on the lander is the Instrument Deployment Arm—a robotic arm that carefully places scientific instruments on Mars. One of those instruments is the heat flow probe, which will burrow 16 feet into the ground!

The successful landing on Mars took years of preparation and mathematical calculations. NASA has been making a lot of headlines lately with successful missions, which highlights what engineers and scientists can achieve.

Elizabeth Barrett, science system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is in charge of deploying and operating InSight’s instruments. “I liken it to playing that claw game at a carnival, but you’re doing it with a really, really valuable prize, and you’re doing it blindfolded, where you can only take occasional pictures, and then you’re doing it via remote control on another planet,” Barrett said at a news conference after the successful InSight landing.

Edition: 
Phoenix
Issue: 
December 2018