The InSight robot will study the Martian soil
– News of September 19, 2017 –
The InSight lander is currently undergoing a series of tests before being launched next year to Mars. InSight is a robot designed by NASA to study the depths of the Martian subsoil using seismology and geodesy. It is not a rover but a stationary robot that will stay at its landing site.
By studying the depths of Mars, we can learn more about the Earth. Indeed, Mars is a relatively inactive planet for three billion years. Its rocky mantle has therefore changed very little since that time. But we think that the structure of the Earth and the structure of Mars are very similar. The activity of the Earth’s mantle makes it difficult to study its past. By focusing on Mars, we can look at a photo of the Earth’s mantle three billion years ago.
The InSight lander should be positioned near the Martian equator. InSight will be powered by two circular solar panels. The robot will deploy its two scientific instruments using a robotic arm. The first scientific instrument is a precision seismometer that will record any trace of seismic activity in the landing zone of the robot. This seismometer was designed by CNES. Its second scientific instrument will be a heat flow sensor. It must sink five meters below the surface of the ground, which will be the greatest depth dug by mankind on Mars. The heat flux sensor will be used to determine the thermal activity of the core and to understand the geothermal history of the planet Mars.
The mission is initially planned to last two years, but InSight could continue well beyond that date. The mission also includes two CubeSats that will serve as a communication relay during the descent phase of the InSight robot. Unable to fit into Martian orbit by their own means, they will then pursue a trajectory that will place them in an orbit around the sun.
Mars is today a planet whose core is almost inactive. With the InSight lander, NASA hopes to study the low residual activity of the planet Mars. This should also make it possible to determine in part the composition of the Martian mantle. The seismometer should be sensitive enough to capture the impacts of meteorites on the planet Mars. By studying their frequency, it will be possible to better understand the risks associated with a possible inhabited mission. In May of next year the lander InSight will be launched. It is currently the only mission scheduled for the planet Mars for 2018, before the invasion of orbiters, landers and rovers that will leave for Mars in 2020.
Image by NASA [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons