NASA is preparing to launch its first mission to Mars since 2012 with the Saturday launch of the InSight mission, which will study the Red Planet’s tectonic activity to unravel the mystery of rocky planet formation.
The launch of the vehicle named Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport, abbreviated InSight, is scheduled for Saturday, May 6th, 11:05 GMT from the U.S. Air Force Vandenberg Base in California.
Originally scheduled for 2016, the discovery of several flaws in one of the instruments forced NASA to postpone the mission. Mars-friendly launch windows are produced only every two years.
The mission should arrive on Mars on November 26th, when it would become the first NASA device to land on Mars since the Curiosity rover.
InSight will collect data through three instruments, namely, a seismometer, a device to accurately locate the probe while Mars oscillates on its axis of rotation, and a heat flow sensor inserted 5 meters into the Martian subsoil.
Why is important to study the “Marsquakes” on the Red Planet?
Since Earth and Mars are thought to have formed in a similar way, about 4.5 billion years ago, NASA hopes the mission will help understand how the planets formed and why are so different now.
Studying how the seismic waves move through the crust, mantle, and core of the Red Planet could help us learn more about how the different layers are made up and how thick they are.
Also, since the early history of the Earth’s formation is impossible to determine due to the massive changes that occurred during the time, NASA hopes that by studying Mars, which formed similarly to the Earth, they will learn something about our own planet’s formation.
Scientists expect to record up to 100 earthquakes during the course of the mission. Most should be less than 6 on the Richter scale.
InSight mission to Mars will be the first instrument ever which will detect, record, and study the so-called “marsquakes”, the tectonic movements of the Red Planet, in order to learn more about rocky planets formation.