Friday March 22, 2019
Home Lead Story NASA sending ...

NASA sending first-ever mission to study Mars’ deep interior

In April, the spacecraft will be mounted to its rocket, connections between them will be checked and the launch team will go through a final training

0
//
NASA Seeks Partnership With US Industry to Develop First Gateway Element
NASA seeks US partners to develop reusable systems for Moon mission, Pixabay

In a bid to study the deep interior of the Red Planet and find traces of how it was formed, NASA is all set to send a first-ever such mission to Mars.

Scheduled to launch on May 5, NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) — a stationary lander — will be dedicated to explore Mars’ deep interior.

Scientists have earlier found layers of ice on the surface of Mars. Wikimedia Commons

It also will be the first NASA mission since the Apollo moon landings to place a seismometer, a device that measures quakes, on the soil of another planet, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

Bruce Banerdt is the principal investigator for InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

“In some ways, InSight is like a scientific time machine that will bring back information about the earliest stages of Mars’ formation 4.5 billion years ago,” Banerdt said.

“It will help us learn how rocky bodies form, including Earth, its moon, and even planets in other solar systems,” he added.

InSight carries a suite of sensitive instruments to gather data and, unlike a rover mission, these instruments require a stationary lander from which they can carefully be placed on and below the Martian surface.

Also Read: NASA’s 2020 Mars rover to have 23 ‘eyes’

Looking deep into Mars will let scientists understand how different its crust, mantle and core are from Earth. Several European partners have contributed instruments and key components to the InSight mission. France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales led a multinational team that built an ultra-sensitive seismometer for detecting marsquakes.

The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) developed a thermal probe that can bury itself up to 16 feet underground and measure heat flowing from inside the planet. “InSight is a truly international space mission,” said Tom Hoffman, project manager at JPL.

India has become only the 4th country in the world to successfully complete a Mars mission. Wikimedia Commons
Mars is a subject of intrigue for NASA. Wikimedia Commons

“Our partners have delivered incredibly capable instruments that will make it possible to gather unique science after we land,” he added. InSight currently is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California undergoing final preparation before launch.

In April, the spacecraft will be mounted to its rocket, connections between them will be checked and the launch team will go through a final training. “This next month will be exciting,” Banerdt said. “We’ve got some final work to do, but we’re almost ready to go to Mars.” IANS

Next Story

NASA Probe Makes New Discoveries on Asteroid Bennu

As a result, Bennu's rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained

0
Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has observed particle plumes erupting from the surface of Bennu, an asteroid the size of the pyramid at Giza.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, which began orbiting Bennu on December 31, first discovered the particle plumes on January 6, followed by additional particle plumes over the last two months.

While some of the particles were slow-moving, the others were found orbiting Bennu, like small satellites.

Bennu’s entire surface was also found to be rough and dense with boulders, contrary to the Earth-based observations, which showed a smooth surface with a few large boulders.

This means that the sample collection part of the mission will have to be adjusted to make sure that OSIRIS-REx can touch down and collect a sample, said NASA while presenting the discoveries at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

NASA
This artist’s rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

“And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” Lauretta added.

Further, the team observed a change in the spin rate of Bennu as a result of what is known as the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect.

The uneven heating and cooling of Bennu as it rotates in sunlight is causing the asteroid to increase its rotation speed.

Also Read- Huawei to Launch Foldable 5G Smartphone ‘Mate X’ in India

As a result, Bennu’s rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained.

OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 to explore Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by spacecraft, is expected to return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023.

The findings will allow researchers to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, the resources in near-Earth space, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. (IANS)