Mars remains one of the main objectives of space exploration at the international level and almost an obsession for NASA, the only space agency that managed to put vehicles on the red planet.
The first ship designed to study the interior of Mars landed today to try to unravel the puzzles of the history of the red planet. InSight, which took off from Earth on May 5, wound up on the red planet at 16.47 (Argentina time).
In just five minutes, it reduced its speed of 17,300 kilometers per hour to only 8 km / h, to securely position itself on the Martian surface by using backhoes.
Engineer Miguel San Martín, who has been working for many years at NASA, was in charge of the decline of the last 4 vehicles that successfully rolled through our neighbor planet, he explained Infobae the importance of the new space mission.
Unlike the latest missions, using rovers, the InSight mission will be similar to the legendary Viking, from the 70's.
"This mission is part of the NASA Discovery program that consists of" low "cost missions but that does not imply that they are not important. Insight is going to study the interior of Mars to better understand how the formation and evolution of planets Rocky (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars). For example, you will try to elucidate whether the nucleus of Mars is solid or liquid, and determine the size of it, the crust, and mantle. Insight is going to provide another piece in the puzzle of how our Solar System was formed, "explained San Martín.
Unlike the latest missions, with the use of rovers, the InSight mission will be similar to the legendary Viking of the 70s. The NASA Viking probes released in the late 1970s had seismometers, of which only one It had worked, but it was much less sensitive because it was fixed on the top of the probe.
InSight is the first instrument to get on Mars since it did five and a half years ago the Mars Science Laboratory, better known as Curiosity, which is still there working.
The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) was designed by the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) in France, while the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) heat detector is a collaboration between German space agencies, DLR, and Polish, CBK.
InSight will try to detect so-called "marsquakes" or Martian earthquakes, seismic waves that, like Earth, pass through the different layers of the planet. These could give information about the interior of Mars and about what "so alive" is its core, helping to understand its formation 4,500 million years ago.
Scientists expect to register up to a hundred earthquakes in the course of the mission. Most should be less than 6 on the open scale of Richter. Studying the way seismic waves travel through the crust, mantle and core of the red planet could help them learn more about how the different layers are made and how thick they are.
"The InSight mission is a probe sent to the deep interior of Mars to be able to better understand the initial formation processes of the Earth and all the rocky planets. We will be able to understand the composition of the mantle, see how large the bark is and what It's done. We want to understand what happened in the first seconds of creation, but on Earth, that evidence has been erased for the most part by tectonic plates and by the convection of the mantle, "said Bruce Banerdt, chief investigator of the mission at a press conference in the USA
Adriana Ocampo, executive of the program Nuevos Horizontes de la Nasa, stressed the importance of the mission for a future mission with humans: "We are interested in seismography, because if a planet moves, earthquakes or martemotos will give us much information about Its interior. If we want to send astronauts to Mars, the information that InSight receives will be key to both understanding the evolution of the planet and determining how safe it is for human beings. "
San Martín also explained further details of the extraordinary mission to Mars
How will the descent of the ship be? Why not use the air bags or the crane like Curiosity?
The ship is an almost exact copy of the Phoenix Lander, which was developed by Lockheed-Martin. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA has the responsibility of the mission. The ship has the characteristics of a "soft-lander", that is, it lands on three legs like the Viking missions of the 1970s, which is not surprising because the company developed both ships.
The crane used for the Curiosity mission in 2012, called SkyCrane, is needed when landing a large Rover. For this type of mission the SkyCrane very expensive. For the Spirit and Opportunity missions, air bags were being bounced on the ground until the robot was stopped and unfolded. It was a JPL attempt to make a very economical and landing landing system on dangerous surfaces.
The Lockheed-Martin developed this Lander or landing system which is also very economical, but not so robust on rugged surfaces. As Insight is going to study the interior of Mars, scientists could choose a more plain and safe place to land, a luxury that we can not give when we do missions to find evidence of life for example.
How have you collaborated in this mission?
In this mission I was a member of the Entry, Descent, and Landing Advisory Board (EDLAG) a group of experts on landing systems that reviewed and advised the Insight reduction team over the years. I am a kind of critic and counselor that tries to offer my experience and knowledge to the Insight team.
How will the interior of Mars be studied?
To study the interior of Mars this mission consists of three instruments: 1) A seismograph to measure the earthquakes of Mars, a result of meteorite impacts, the crunch of Mars when it is quenched by cooling and tides caused by the gravity of its moons ( Phobos and Deimos). This instrument acts as an ultrasound using sound waves that propagate through the interior of Mars to determine its structure, 2) A species of mole that is going to bury up to 5 meters to measure the thermal gradient to understand the sources of heat in the Inside the planet, 3) A radio instrument to measure how Marte's rotation stabs and in that way determine whether it has a liquid or solid nucleus.
InSight was originally scheduled for 2016, but a technical problem (the discovery of leakage in one of the instruments) forced the NASA to postpone the start of the project until Mars and Earth were again optimally for the trip to be shorter and with the lowest possible energy expense.
This delay was one additional cost of 150 million dollars for the Nasa, raising the total cost of the mission to 800 million.
Despite this, it is expected that with the success of this mission the agency can send a new space exploration vehicle in 2020 to seek evidence of life and take samples of the land.