“I feel you Mars – and soon I’ll know your heart. With this safe landing, I’m here. I’m home.”
These somewhat emotional (and somewhat creepy) words are the first we have heard from the latest inhabitant of Mars.
After an epic six-month, 450 million kilometre journey, NASA’s Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the red planet… a spectacular feat of human engineering that’s being celebrated around the world.
InSight isn’t just a bit of a wordsmith. It’s also quite the photographer. Shortly after landing, InSight also tweeted out its first glimpses of Mars.
First was a rather gritty image of the planet surface, with the camera’s protective lens cap still in place. Later, InSight shared a clear view of the Martian landscape surrounding the landing site.
If you haven’t seen the view from Mars yet, do yourself a favour and jump onto the NASA website and check out the images InSight is sending back.
Over the next two years, they expect that InSight will experience hundreds or thousands of these quakes...
Unlike its cousins, the various Mars Rovers, InSight isn’t designed to move. Instead of spending its time exploring Martian valleys and mountains, or searching for evidence of water, it will remain parked in a flat, empty, and rather dull region of the planet known as Elysium Planitia.
While the location might not be as flashy as the areas explored on previous missions to Mars, it is the perfect location for InSight to carry out its own special mission.
InSights’ first job, once all of its systems are activated and calibrated, is to unpack a bunch of scientific equipment, including an extremely sensitive seismometer – an instrument used to measure ground movements.
InSight will use this to send back information about marsquakes (the Mars version of earthquakes).
Just as earthquakes have shaped the landscape here on Earth, marsquakes do the same on Mars, helping to create the iconic mountains and valleys seen across the planet.
Researchers want to know how often these marsquakes occur, as well as where, and how big they are.
Over the next two years, they expect that InSight will experience hundreds or thousands of these quakes, which can provide valuable information about the materials the planet is made of. This will give some insight (pun intended) into how rocky planets like Mars have formed and changed over time.
There’s a quiet beauty here. Looking forward to exploring my new home.InSight
InSight won’t just be monitoring Mars for quakes. It also has the job of drilling deep into the surface of the planet, measuring heat from the interior.
The data that is collected might be able to answer the question of whether the core is still molten or not.
Alongside all this drilling and marsquake monitoring, InSight will also be collecting all sorts of other data.
It will measure wind speeds, temperature, and atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface. And of course will send home more glorious photos.
In one of its early tweets, shortly after arriving on Mars, InSight said: “There’s a quiet beauty here. Looking forward to exploring my new home.”
There’s many of us back here on Earth that are equally looking forward to seeing what InSight can discover about our planet’s closest neighbour.
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