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Nasa’s InSight lander


Nasa’s InSight lander has recorded over 500 quakes to date on Mars since its touch down on the Red Planet in November 2018.

  1. The two recent quakes of magnitude 3.3 and 3.1 originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae.
  2. These findings support the idea that the planet is seismically active.


  • The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is a robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the planet Mars.
  • It was manufactured by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and most of its scientific instruments were built by European agencies.
  • The mission launched on 5 May 2018 aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket
  • Successfully landed at Elysium Planitia on Mars on 26 November 2018
  •  InSight traveled 483 million km (300 million mi) during its journey
  • InSight‘s objectives are to place a seismometer, called SEIS, on the surface of Mars to measure seismic activity and provide accurate 3D models of the planet’s interior; and measure internal heat flow using a heat probe called HP3 to study Mars’ early geological evolution.
  • This could bring a new understanding of how the Solar System’s terrestrial planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars – and Earth’s Moon form and evolve.

Key findings of the Mission

Underground: rumbles

  • Mars trembles more often than expected, but also more mildly.
  • This emerged from readings of the ultra-sensitive seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).
  • The instrument enables scientists to “hear” multiple trembling events from hundreds to thousands of miles away.
  • Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth, but it does have volcanically active regions that can cause rumbles.

The surface: Magnetism

  • Billions of years ago, Mars had a magnetic field.
  • Although it is no longer present, it left behind what NASA describes as “ghosts” – magnetized rocks that are now between 61 m to several km below ground.
  • InSight is equipped with a magnetometer, which has detected magnetic signals.
  • At a Martian site called Homestead hollow, the magnetic signals are 10 times stronger than what was predicted earlier (based on data from orbiting spacecraft).

In the wind: dust devils

  • InSight measures wind speed, direction and air pressure nearly continuously.
  • Weather sensors have detected thousands of passing whirlwinds, which are called dust devils when they pick up grit and become visible.
  • The site has more whirlwinds than any other place where a landing has been made on Mars while carrying weather sensors.
  • Despite all that activity in the wind and frequent imaging, InSight’s cameras have yet to see dust devils. But SEIS can feel these whirlwinds pulling on the surface.

The core: still to come

  • InSight has two radios. One is for regularly sending and receiving data. The other radio, which is more powerful, is designed to measure the “wobble” of Mars as it spins.
  • This X-band radio, also known as the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), can eventually reveal whether the planet’s core is solid or liquid.
  • A solid core would cause Mars to wobble less than a liquid one would.
  • This first year of data is just a start, NASA said in the statement. When it is two years on Earth, Mars will have completed one year.

Source:  NASA

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