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"Marsbeats" may contain clues as to how the Red Planet has formed



A small shock on Mars will tell planetary scientists a lot about the structure of the Red Planet. NASA's upcoming InSight (Interior Exploration with Seismic Surveys, Geodesy, and Heat Transport) will examine Mars Fields to learn more about the crust, mantle, and core of Mars.

The Marslander, who will leave Earth not earlier than May 5, will be carrying a seismometer called SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Inner Structure). Although it will not be the first seismometer on Mars, it will be the most accurate, NASA researchers said.

Seismic waves on Mars arise when rocks shift or break as on Earth. The waves will fly at different speeds, depending on whether they pass through rocks, fluids or other geological material inside the Red Planet. [Meet the Next Mars Lander: Getting Insight on NASA̵

7;s InSight]

"It's a bit like doing the CT scan of a planet," said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, in a NASA statement. "We want to use seismology to find out why Mars came into being and how planets generally take shape."

InSight will likely see two dozen to a few hundred Marsquakes during its main mission, which will take a little over two Earth years after landing on November 26, 2018. The spacecraft will even detect hits from meteorites that hit the surface of Mars

  The internal structure of Mars: its outer crust, mantle and then inner core.

The internal structure of Mars: its outer crust, mantle and then inner core.

Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

19659008] On Earth, most seismological measurements are triangulated between multiple stations. InSight, however, will be the only station that returns data on Mars.

"It gets blurry at first, but the more quakes we see, the sharper it gets," said Banerdt. "We have to be smart, we can measure how different waves from the same quake bounce off at different times and hit the station."

Scientists know that Mars has at its core heavier rocks and minerals as well as lighter rocks and minerals its crust. With InSight, they hope to gain more insight into how these materials are layered – and the layers differ between the oven-hot Venus, the life-friendly earth, and the cold, windswept Mars. Later on, learning about the inside of these planets can provide clues as to where life can thrive.

Other NASA missions planned planetary seismology. The Viking Landers brought seismometers to Mars in the late 1970s, but their placement was unfortunate: the seismometers were up on the lander and swaying in the wind. "It was a disabled experiment," said Banerdt. "I joke that we did not do seismology on Mars – we did it three feet above Mars."

Apollo astronauts also carried out seismic tests on the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Apollo 11, the first moon landing, carried out a passive seismic experiment in 1969, which lasted three weeks. As a result, between 1970 and 1972, the Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions deployed more advanced seismic equipment. The data were returned to 1977, according to the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

"Astronauts set fire to mortar shells to create vibration and look down to about 100 meters below the surface," NASA said in the statement. "They dumped the upper stages of the rockets into the moon and produced waves that enabled them to study their crust and also discovered thousands of real lunar and meteorite impacts."

InSight has several other instruments that reveal more about the interior of Mars. The heat flow and physical properties sensor will bury itself about 5 meters below the surface of Mars to measure its internal heat. The spacecraft will also carry the "Rotation and Interior Structure" experiment to track InSight's position and the sweeping motions of Mars during Earth's orbit; These positioning variations will indicate the composition of the Martian core.

"Wind, pressure, and temperature sensors will allow scientists to subtract vibrational noise caused by the weather," NASA officials added. "By combining all this data, we get the most complete picture of Mars."

Follow us @Spacedotcom Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.


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