Today at 14:05 an Atlas V rocket was launched from the Vandenberg Space Center on board the InSight. In November of this year, he must reach Mars and bite into its surface. With the help of this device, we will receive answers to questions about the tectonic activity of the planet and its structure.
According to calculations, the device will work on Mars 720 days – one Martian year. For two terrestrial years, InSight will study the internal structure of Mars, registering earthquakes. They can arise not only because of tectonic activity, but also because of the fall of meteorites that do not burn in a more sparse Martian atmosphere.
The first attempts to investigate the tectonic activity of Mars were carried out by seismographs on the descent vehicles Viking-1 and Viking-2, launched to Mars in 1975. But on the first device the device did not work after landing, and on the second one it did not have sufficient sensitivity, because it was installed not on Martian soil, but on the descent vehicle itself.
Among the scientific purposes of the apparatus are:
studying the geological evolution of Mars by studying the internal structure and processes occurring in the stratum of the Martian soil;
studying the size, composition, and aggregation state of the planet’s core;
study of the thickness and structure of the cortex;
studying the composition and structure of the mantle;
the study of the internal temperature of Mars;
the study of tectonic activity and the frequency of meteorite incidence on the planet.
In addition to the seismograph, there is an instrument on the apparatus that will drill a 5-meter well in the thickness of the planet and measure the amount of heat emanating from the inner layers of Mars. Another device will study the oscillations of the planet under the action of the Sun. RISE will measure the Doppler shift and the change in the duration of the series of radio transmissions between the InSight probe and the Earth.
Initially, it was planned that the launch of the mission will take place in March 2016, but this date was abandoned due to a fault in the key instrument of the apparatus – SEIS seismometer. During the tests at a temperature similar to the working one on Mars (-45 degrees), a leak was observed in the vacuum chamber of the seismic sensors.
The Toulouse Space Center, which produced the instrument, said that it would not have time to repair it. For this reason, it was decided to postpone the mission for 2018.