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New NASA Mission to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars

NASA Mission to Peer Into Mars’ Past

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The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.
The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.. Pixabay
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A powerful Atlas 5 rocket was poised for liftoff early Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying to Mars the first robotic NASA lander designed entirely for exploring the deep interior of the red planet.

The Mars InSight probe was scheduled to blast off from the central California coast at 4:05 a.m. PDT (1105 GMT), creating a luminous predawn spectacle of the first U.S. interplanetary spacecraft to be launched over the Pacific.

The lander will be carried aloft for NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) atop a two-stage, 19-story Atlas 5 rocket from the fleet of United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

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The payload will be released about 90 minutes after launch on a 301-million-mile (484 million km) flight to Mars. It is scheduled to reach its destination in six months, landing on a broad, smooth plain close to the planet’s equator called the Elysium Planitia.

InSight’s mission

That will put InSight roughly 373 miles (600 km) from the 2012 landing site of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity. The new 800-pound (360-kg) spacecraft marks the 21st U.S.-launched Martian exploration, dating to the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. Nearly two dozen other Mars missions have been launched by other nations.

An image of Mars.
Mars. Pixabay

Once settled, the solar-powered InSight will spend two years, about one Martian year, plumbing the depths of the planet’s interior for clues to how Mars took form and, by extension, the origins of the Earth and other rocky planets.

Measuring marsquakes

InSight’s primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, designed to detect the slightest vibrations from “marsquakes” around the planet. The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander’s robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

Scientists expect to see a dozen to 100 marsquakes over the course of the mission, producing data to help them deduce the depth, density and composition of the planet’s core, the rocky mantle surrounding it and the outermost layer, the crust.

The Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

Apollo missions to the moon brought seismometers to the lunar surface as well, detecting thousands of moonquakes and meteorite impacts. But InSight is expected to yield the first meaningful data on planetary seismic tremors beyond Earth.

Insight also will be fitted with a German-made drill to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat flowing from inside the planet.

Meanwhile, a special transmitter on the lander will send radio signals back to Earth, tracking Mars’ subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet’s core and possibly whether it remains molten.

Also Read: NASA Tests Mini-Nuclear Reactors for Moon and Mars

Hitching a ride aboard the same rocket that launches InSight will be a pair of miniature satellites called CubeSats, which will fly to Mars on their own paths behind the lander in a first deep-space test of that technology. (VOA)

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NASA Launches “Remote Sensing Toolkit To Help Users Search For Data

The "Remote Sensing Toolkit" provides a simple system that quickly identifies relevant sources based on user input, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

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"Our mission to bring NASA technology down to Earth is expanding with the release of this remote sensing toolkit," Lockney said. Pixabay

NASA has launched an online toolkit to make it easier for users to find, analyse and utilise the most relevant satellite data for their research, business projects or conservation efforts.

The “Remote Sensing Toolkit” provides a simple system that quickly identifies relevant sources based on user input, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The toolkit is designed to help users search for data, as well as ready-to-use tools and code to build new tools.

“This new tool makes finding and using NASA satellite data easier than ever before, and we hope it sparks innovation among the entrepreneurial community and leads to further commercialisation of NASA technology and benefits people across the world,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer programme executive.

“Our mission to bring NASA technology down to Earth is expanding with the release of this remote sensing toolkit,” Lockney said.

Through its constellation of Earth observation satellites, NASA collects petabytes of data each year.

NASA
Through its constellation of Earth observation satellites, NASA collects petabytes of data each year. Pixabay

The variety of open source tools created to access, analyse and utilise the data from these satellites is familiar to millions of science users, but accessing and utilising this data remains daunting for many potential commercial users.

For example, NASA’s remote-sensing data and tools are spread out across dozens of sites.

The NASA Technology Transfer programme reviewed more than 50 websites and found that no source provided a comprehensive collection of information or a single access point to begin a search.

This prompted the US space agency to introduce the Remote Sensing Toolkit.

Also Read-NASA Funding Project RAMA To Turn Asteroids Into Spaceships

“Remote Sensing Toolkit will help grow the number of users who put NASA’s free and open data archive to work for people,” said Kevin Murphy of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. (IANS)