The new NASA InSight mission will measure the temperature and internal movements of Mars to determine what its core looks like, a task in which the Royal Observatory of Belgium is responsible of listening to the “heartbeat” of the planet’s core to discover what it is like.
“Just as when you hear the noise of a car you can determine where it comes from, we are going to do exactly the same thing to determine the rotation movement of Mars,” said Veronique Dehant, the leader of the team of seven Belgian scientists involved in the NASA InSight project.
Dehant has just returned from the United States, where she attended the successful launch of InSight on May 5th, the first space mission to study the entrails of the Red Planet, the composition of its core and mantle, and detect if seismic movements occur.
For this purpose, it has three main instruments, namely, a seismograph to study its interior structure (SEIS), sensors for the study of heat flow and physical properties (HP3) and a tool for the study of rotation and interior structure (RISE), in which the Belgian team will work together with NASA.
NASA InSight and the Royal Observatory of Belgium hope to determine the evolution stage of Mars and its core’s composition
The experiment involves sending radio waves from Earth to Mars, which will be returned by the RISE instrument back “so fast that they won’t deteriorate,” said Dehant.
Once the data on these waves are collected, the Royal Observatory in Belgium will be responsible for studying their characteristics, in particular, the Doppler effect, which makes it possible to determine the movement of a body according to the waves it emits.
Knowing how the planet revolves around itself will, in turn, will allow scientists to elucidate the dimensions, composition, and state of the core of Mars, which scientists believe is liquid since the Red Planet’s rotation depends on these characteristics.
The ultimate goal of the mission is to know where the Red Planet is in its evolution in order to try to understand why it is not habitable, while the Earth can host life thanks to seisms which allow the release of gases into the atmosphere, and which do not exist on Mars, apparently.
For the Royal Observatory of Belgium, the NASA InSight will also be used to gain more experience, given its participation in ExoMars 2020, a Russian-European mission, recently a subject of collaboration between ESA and NASA.