Wheels aren’t necessary for exploring Mars. NASA spacecraft InSight will touch down in November and then spread its solar panels and unfold its robotic arms. It will then stay right where it lands and not move. Unlike the other rovers by the space agency, the lander InSight has been designed in such a way that it will study the entire planet by staying right in its own spot. This stationary science allows NASA’s InSight to detect and study geophysical signals deep below the surface of Mars including heat and marsquakes. This will also help scientists to track radio signals from the sedentary spacecraft which differ with wobble in Mars’ rotation. If the wobble is understood, man will know if the core of the planet is solid or not.
There are five things that one should know about the way in which InSight conducts its science.
The spacecraft can measure intensity of quakes anywhere on Mars:
On Earth, quakes are measured with the help of seismometers. InSight had one called SEIS which will allow scientists to use innovative methods to analyze and measure seismic waves anywhere on Mars. Seismic waves from meteorite strikes and marsquakes will be measured as they move through the planet by SEIS. As their speed depends on material it is traveling through, scientists can deduce what interior of Mars is composed of. These waves either vibrate across surface of planet or ricochet off its center and also move at varying speeds. This makes it easier for seismologists to determine origin and nature of these waves.
Seismometer of InSight requires silence:
Seismometers need isolation and quiet to make accurate measurements. InSight is acutely sensitive so much so that it can detect vibrations tinier than width of Hydrogen atoms. InSight has been provided with a wind-and-thermal shield that will protect it from blowing winds and intense temperature fluctuations which can easily affect readings.
Presence of a self-hammering nail:
This will help InSight to go deeper into the ground and drag out the tether lodged with heat sensors. This will give provide information about how valleys, mountain ranges and volcanoes were formed due to the heat trapped underground since the planet’s formation in addition to course of rivers that ran during earlier times.
It can land in a secure spot:
A boring and flat location near the equator of Mars known as Elysium Planitia has been chosen as InSight’s spot as it has fewer rocks and enough sunlight for powering the spacecraft. Scientists can secure all the data they need without the risk of power running out.
Measurement of Mars’ wobble:
A couple of X-band antennas on InSight’s deck constitute RISE, the radio signals from which will be measured over months and years to understand the small ‘wobble’ in Mars’ rotation. This could help in determining if the core of Mars is solid or liquid which could in turn elucidate on the thin magnetic field of the planet.