SHE Task – The Role of Collaboration in the InSight Mission
The Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport mission (InSight), is designed to collect data that will help scientists understand the formation and evolution of Mars and will also determine the level of tectonic activity on Mars and measure meteorite impacts (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018a). This report will focus on the key concept of collaboration in the construction of the lander’s key instruments and also on the potential applications and limitations of the mission.
Scientific Aims & Background:
The InSight Mission’s goal is to explore the interior of Mars: its mantle, crust, and core . Studying Mars’ internal structure will help scientists to gain more insight into the formation of the rocky planets in our solar system: Earth, Venus, Mercury and Mars. InSight will also measure the current levels of tectonic activity and will detect any meteorite impacts that occur on Mars over the duration of the mission.
The lander carries three main instruments: a seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) that will measure seismic waves, a heat transfer probe called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3) that measures the temperature of Mars’ interior and a radio experiment called the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE) that measures how much the North Pole of Mars’ wobbles as it orbits the Sun.
The SEIS is a dome-shaped instrument that sits on the Martian surface and measures the seismic vibrations of Mars’ interior, shown in Figure 1 (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018b). The SEIS will also pick up surface vibrations caused by activity in Mars’ atmosphere and by weather systems such as dust storms (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018b). The SEIS measurements can also tell scientists about what materials lie beneath Mar’s surface, such as liquid water or active volcanic plumes (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018b).
The HP3 will burrow 5 metres into Mars’ crust to measure the heat coming from Mars’ interior as shown in Figure 2 (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018c). The probe will reveal the magnitude of the heat radiating out of the planet and what the source of the heat is (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018c). This information helps scientists to determine if Mars formed from the same substances as Earth and the Moon and provides a glimpse into how the planet evolved (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018c).
InSight’s RISE instrument is designed to track the location of the lander as a way of determining how much Mars’ North Pole wobbles as it orbits around the sun (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018d). This information will help scientists to determine if the core of Mars is liquid and even what substances may be present (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018d).
The InSight mission was the product of collaboration between scientists and engineers from many different organisations and countries around the world. The mission team includes key members from the U.S., Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Poland, Canada, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (Figure 4) (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018e). The SEIS instrument was developed in France by the technical and scientific teams of the French space agency (CNES), the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, the Paris Diderot University space campus, and the manufacturer SODERN (Seis-insight.eu, 2018). Other contributors in the technological development of the SEIS included NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Imperial College London, the Planck Institute for Solar System Research and numerous other French laboratories that helped with providing facilities for testing the SEIS (Seis-insight.eu, 2018). Without the collaboration and communication between these various companies, laboratories, universities and institutions, the production of the SEIS just would not have been possible.
The HP3 instrument was manufactured at the German space agency (DLR), where the project’s principal investigator was based (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018c). The project’s deputy principal investigator and several co-investigators were based in the U.S. as well as several other co-investigators from Germany, France, Poland and Austria (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018c). This unique international collaboration allowed for the development of a complex instrument that will dig further down into the crust than all other scoops, probes, arms or drills that have previously studied Mars (NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, 2018c).
Applications and Limitations:
As the name suggests, the InSight mission will give insight into the formation and evolution of Mars and also its interior structure. While Mars and Earth differ in size, temperature and atmospheric composition, they have similar geological features including craters, volcanoes and canyons (The Conversation, 2018). This also implies that the interior of Mars may be comparable to Earth’s. The data that will be collected in the InSight mission will help to give conformation of this (The Conversation, 2018). Scientists believe that there was once liquid water on the surface of ancient Mars, a time when Mars could have been very similar to Earth (The Conversation, 2018). InSight’s Mars exploration could therefore answer questions about the ancient habitability of our solar system. Mars is a very real option for human settlement in the lifetime of current generations (The Conversation, 2018). Discovering the properties of Mars’ crust is consequently of great importance in investigating signs of extra-terrestrial habitability and planning a landing mission (The Conversation, 2018).
The InSight mission is the result of international collaboration and communication between different scientists and organisations from around the world. Each of the main instruments was built in a different country, the SEIS in France, the HP3 in Germany and the RISE antennas in the U.S. Through the data collected in the mission, Insight will give reveal the interior structure of Mars and will consequently reveal clues as to Mars’ ancient and current habitability.
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The Conversation. (2018). Launching in May, the InSight mission will measure marsquakes to explore the interior of Mars. online Available at: http://theconversation.com/launching-in-may-the-insight-mission-will-measure-marsquakes-to-explore-the-interior-of-mars-91080 Accessed 31 Oct. 2018.