Sunday December 15, 2019
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NASA Blasts off Mars Lander, InSight

NASA's InSight spacecraft blasts off to Mars

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NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

NASA’s InSight mission to study the deep interior of Mars blasted off to the Red Planet on Saturday aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“Humanity’s next mission to Mars has left the pad! NASAInSight heads into space for an approximately six-month journey to Mars where it will take the planet’s vital signs and help us understand how rocky planets formed,” NASA tweeted soon after the launch at 7.05 am (4.35 p.m. India time).

An image of Mars.
Mars. Pixabay

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all rocky planets formed, including Earth and its Moon. The lander’s instruments include a seismometer to detect marsquakes, and a probe that will monitor the flow of heat from the planet’s interior.

InSight will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.

Also Read: New NASA Mission to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars

It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.

The findings of Mars’ formation will help better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth and its Moon, were created. (IANS)

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Scientists Create Map of Wind Circulation in the Upper Atmosphere of Mars

Scientists map winds in Mars' upper atmosphere for first time

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Mars
The new map of Mars winds helps scientists to better understand the workings of the Martian climate. (Representational image). Pixabay

Using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, researchers have created the first-ever map of wind circulation in the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The new map of Mars winds helps scientists to better understand the workings of the Martian climate, giving them a more accurate picture of its ancient past and its ongoing evolution.

“The observed global circulation provides critical inputs needed to constrain global atmospheric models,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“These are the same models that are used to extrapolate the state of the Martian climate into the distant past,” added Benna in the first paper published in the journal Science.

MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission) celebrated the five-year anniversary of its entrance into orbit around Mars on September 21.

Mission Mars
The winds observed in the Martian upper atmosphere are sometimes similar to what we see in global model simulations. (Representational image). Pixabay

The primary scientific goal of the mission is to study what is left of Mars’ atmosphere to determine how, in the distant past, an ocean-covered and potentially habitable Mars became the dry and desolate place it is today.

“The winds observed in the Martian upper atmosphere are sometimes similar to what we see in global model simulations, but other times can be quite different,” said Kali Roeten of University of Michigan.

“These winds can also be highly variable on the timescale of hours, yet in other cases, are consistent throughout the observation period, said Roeten in the second paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.

Upper atmospheric winds on Earth have already been mapped in detail.

Winds drive a series of processes in the atmosphere that can affect the propagation of radio waves, which are crucial for communications purposes for those on the surface, and the prediction of paths satellites will take in their orbit around Earth.

Mapping Martian winds, therefore, is a crucial step towards understanding characteristics of extraterrestrial atmospheres beyond what we know about processes on Earth.

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The upper atmospheric winds on both Earth and Mars are in the planets’ respective thermospheres, which are areas where temperature increases with height.

This discovery was the first detection of topography-induced gravity wave ripples in the thermosphere of any planet, even Earth. (IANS)