InSight Lands on Mars

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If you have looked up at the sky on 31 July 2018, you could have probably seen Mars, the Red Planet, shining brightly without resorting to any special equipment. At that time, it was very close to Earth; you may have wondered, like many others, about the Red Planet and its secrets.

Scientists have always wanted to explore Mars. The dream was only realized in movies with the actor, Matt Damon, reaching Mars in the movie, The Martian, and getting to stay there as well. With more people reaching Mars in movies, it is worth noting that reaching Mars is more challenging than movies picture it to be.

By end-2018, something really special happened; NASA made it again to Mars. Human beings have not set their feet on the Red Planet yet, so do not get your hopes high up. NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) landed on Mars on 26 November 2018, after a seven-month journey from Earth, covering a distance of 485 million kilometers.

InSight is NASA’s eighth successful landing on Mars; its mission will last for two years where it will study the interior of Mars to shed light on how all celestial bodies were formed. This step will also help NASA take a closer look on the Red Planet to better prepare for sending astronauts there. Within minutes of its landing, InSight sent pictures of its surroundings, all of which were obscured by dust from landing. Please check the following recent photos sent by Insight from Mars.

Images Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight is not the first and will not be the last. The Viking landers were the first of NASA to land on Mars with Viking 1 landing on 20 July 1976, and Viking 2 landing on 3 September of the same year. Other Mars missions focused on studying valleys, volcanoes, and signs of running water; this time, however, InSight is focusing on the interior of the Planet.

InSight is going to study Mars using three major instruments: a seismometer, a heat probe, and the RISE. The seismometer is responsible for measuring vibrations that result from Mars’ internal activity. The heat probe measures the planet’s temperature to identify how much heat comes out of the interior of the planet. The RISE is the equipment responsible for measuring Mars’ metallic core. While this is not NASA’s first landing on Mars, InSight, like its name implies, is to provide true insight to Mars’ deep interior.

Is landing on Mars easy? No. Scientists at NASA call the minutes of landing “the seven minutes of terror”, simply because the scientists cannot control the landing remotely. They have to trust their spacecraft and their pre-programing of it; out of all the landings, only 40% were successful.

There is more to be done before human beings eventually set foot on the Red Planet. Mars’ InSight brings us one step closer to exploring Mars and unraveling its mystery.

 

References

engineering.com
mars.nasa.gov
mars.nasa.gov/insight
mars.nasa.gov/news
mars.nasa.gov/news/8392
nationalgeographic.com
sciencedaily.com
theguardian.com

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