NASA's InSight into life on Mars

Shaibana S on December 7, 2018

NASA’s Insight spacecraft travelled 301 million miles from Earth to land on the surface of Mars, after a seven-month voyage ending in a dramatic plunge as it landed the Red planet last week. InSight - is the short form of Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The spacecraft  comes equipped with some powerful sensors and large solar panels which is the size of ping-pong tables. The space agency shared a series of high resolution photos of the rocky Martian terrain. The lander will soon start photographing the surface which is directly in front of it to give scientists an idea of where to start drilling into the interior of the Martian surface. The latest pictures from InSider has shown vast improvements from its first images, which were obscured by dust and protective covers.

The craft's robotic arm stretches nearly six feet long and will be used to move science instruments around.Through mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to find out the differences between
Earth and Mars, both of which are at a comfortable distance from the sun in the solar system favouring an ideal environment for the existence and sustenance of life.

The first images emerged seven minutes after the spacecraft landed. Nasa's mission control in California was full of joy after the InSight landed safely. The final seven minutes of the spacecraft’s landing was particularly tense as it had to navigate the thin Martian atmosphere which offers little friction to slow down.

Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that had been trailing InSight. The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in almost real time but also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just four minutes after its landing.

It was NASA's eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes and the first in six years. Nasa's Curiosity rover, that came in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.

Seven hours after the touchdown, it was reported that the InSight's vital solar panels opened for recharging its batteries. Three UK-made seismometer instruments are on board the spacecraft, which is part of a £4 million UK Space Agency effort to measure "marsquakes" on the planet.

InSight also has a thermometer nicknamed the "Mole", which will burrow 16ft down below the Martian surface to take subterranean temperature readings. The robot will be the first probe which will focus solely on understanding Mars' interior, right from its core to its crust. Another instrument will burrow five metres deep into the ground of Mars, meant for measuring the planet's temperature, while a third experiment will be done to determine how Mars wobbles on its axis.

The lander is also equipped with wind and heat sensors, which help operate the thermal and windshields – to protect against damage.

With more advancements from the experiments conducted we may not be far from making a visit to Mars one day.  

Courtesy: NASA

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