What has NASA’s InSight discovered on Mars so far? Sights and sounds of Mars

If you were paying attention to the news last
year, I don’t think it was possible to missthe media hype about the NASA InSight mission
to Mars. But after it successfully landed, there’s
hardly been any mention of it since. So, what were its mission goals on the Martian
surface?And has it achieved anything now that it’s
been there for almost a year?I’m Alex McColgan, and you’re watching
Astrum, and together we will find out exactlywhat InSight has discovered on Mars so far. Let’s begin with a quick recap of the mission. InSight launched from Earth in May 2018, and
landed on Mars in November of the same year. Unlike a lot of the other NASA missions to
Mars, this is a robotic lander, not a rover. In fact, it shares a lot of similarities and
technology with a previous NASA mission calledPhoenix, although they had quite different
science goals. InSight’s main objective is to investigate
the seismology of the planet, whereas Phoenixwas more interested in the past and present
habitability of Mars. The last you probably saw of the InSight mission
was this image, the first image InSight sentback to Earth. But there have been a lot of interesting things
that have taken place since then, so let’ssee exactly what happened after it landed. The first thing InSight did was send back
signals to Earth that it had touched downsafely, and sent the famous first image. As you can see, a lot of dust had been kicked
up by the landing, as InSight used descentrockets to slow its fall. A camera pointed under the lander reveals
the effects of the rockets, which carved outmini craters under the craft. InSight was programmed to wait a few hours
for the dust to settle before deploying itstwo circular solar panels, as dust settling
on the panels themselves would affect theefficiency. InSight quickly began collecting data, even
before deploying any of the science instruments. The first thing it recorded was the Martian
wind, picked up by vibrations sensed by theseismometer still on the lander. And this is what is sounded like, although
I should note that you will probably eitherneed a subwoofer or headphones to hear this. This has not been sped up, these literally
are the vibrations caused by Martian windgoing over the solar panels of the lander,
the frequency of the vibrations convertedto audio. For the benefit of those who can’t hear
it, here is it pitched up two octaves. InSight can also detect changes in air pressure. Here is the air pressure changing as wind
blows across the lander. This audio has been sped up by a factor of
100 for it to be within human hearing range. What is fascinating though is that we don’t
have to just imagine the wind passing by InSight,as it was also able to capture footage of
water ice clouds passing by overhead, visiblyshowing the direction of the wind. Yes, although Mars is currently a barren wasteland,
there is still a tiny amount of water vapourin the atmosphere. Almost immediately after landing, InSight
was taking 3D images of its surrounding areain order to find the perfect spot to place
the seismometer. Based on those 3D images, NASA recreated this
area as accurately as possible, even goingas far as using the Hololens augmented reality
headset to match up the surface of Mars withthe environment they were recreating. The seismometer is extremely sensitive, and
had to be placed directly on the surface,avoiding any rocks that would affect the placement
of it and of its windshield. As you’ve already heard, wind is easily
detectable by the seismometer, so the windshieldhad to fully enclose it to protect it from
potentially contaminated measurements. Once the go ahead was given, InSight carefully
used its robotic arm to place the seismometeron the surface of the planet. From there, it could detect the faintest vibrations,
from Marsquakes to meteors impacting the surfaceclose by. But what is the point of this?Well, when a specific part of the surface
of a planet vibrates, a ripple propagatesthrough the planet’s interior. Listening out for the echoes, scientists can
determine the internal structure of Mars. They would then correlate the data collected
with the other main scientific instrumentonboard InSight, namely the Heat Flow and
Physical Properties Package, which is a combinationof a drill and a hammer with a very accurate
temperature sensor to measure how efficientlyheats transfers through the Martian core. The “mole”, as they call it, tried to
dig 5m down, taking temperature readings every10cm, extrapolating these readings to estimate
the thickness of the Martian crust. Unfortunately, the mole got stuck only 30cm
down, and is currently unable to recover. It probably hit a very hard rock, or the soil
simply didn’t provide enough friction, whichtilted the mole before it had fully exited
its housing, getting stuck in this position. Again, ground based teams tried to replicate
the problem and look for a safe way to pickup the housing around the mole and use the
robotic arm to straighten its course. Putting their plan to action on Mars, the
operation was successful, the housing waslifted off, exposing the mole, but no further
progress has been made as of this moment. Latest plans are to try and use the robotic
arm to push down on the soil right next tothe mole, hopefully giving it the friction
it needs to start digging deeper, if frictionreally was the problem. Luckily, the seismometer was more successful. In April of this year, it detected its first
Marsquake. And this is what is sounded like. Again, the vibrations have been sped up by
a factor of 60 as the frequency would notbe audible to the human ear. While data like this doesn’t need to be
converted to audio for scientists to use it,it is useful for the lay person so they can
better grasp what is going on. What you will notice though is how sensitive
this seismometer is. Even under the wind shield, it still picks
up vibrations caused by the wind, and eventhe robotic arm moving can be easily detected
even though it’s a few meters away. Lastly, InSight is acting a little like a
weather station on Mars, with instrumentsdetecting wind, air pressure, and air temperature. As you can see, even at the equator Mars is
a chilly -25c at its warmest at the moment,bottoming out at -100c. We are also seeing some gusts of up to 60kph
and low air pressures, about 6mbar comparedto Earth’s 1bar. So, there you have it!As you can tell, InSight has had some ups
and downs, but the overall health of the landeris good, and it will hopefully be collecting
data for a while yet, assuming not too muchdust settles on its panels. This data will provide a more and more accurate
3D model of the interior of Mars, providingevidence of what Mars once looked like and
how it formed in the first place. And if the mole can get functioning again,
we’ll be able to get data for the heat flowunder the surface too to find out if there
really is an active mantle under the surfacestill or not. So, keep an eye out for this mission in the
coming months and years!Thanks to NordVPN for sponsoring today’s
episode!For those of you that don’t know, a VPN
is a Virtual Private Network, which allowsyou to securely surf the web as if you were
anywhere on Earth. Mars sadly hasn’t had servers added yet. But for me this is super useful, as although
I’m British, I live most of the time inSwitzerland, and it is highly annoying for
me when I go on Netflix and they region lockthe English audio tracks out of the shows
or films I want and only give German as anoption. Or completely region lock certain shows from
being viewed at all. So, to lower my blood pressure, with NordVPN
I can connect to a UK server, and enjoy watchingwhat I want, how I want. Are you ever using a public connection and
are concerned it’s not secure?Turn NordVPN on and your data is now encrypted. You can use it for your home or mobile device
which is handy when you are on the go. So use the link https://nordvpn. org/astrum
found in the description and you can get 75%off their 3-year plan. The nordvpn. org/astrum link will also get
you one month for free, so don’t miss out. Thanks for watching!If you enjoy Mars, check out this playlist
of other Mars videos here. And of course, a big thank you to my Patreons
and members that support the channel. If you want to support the channel too and
see your name listed here, find the linksin the description!All the best, and see you next time.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

×