Ambitious mountaineers, forget the mountain. Everest. Dreams of Mars.
The Red Planet has some of the highest mountains in the solar system. This includes Olympus Mons, a volcano that is almost three times as high as Everest. It borders a region called the Tharsis Plateau, where three equally impressive volcanoes dominate the landscape.
But what geological processes have created these features on the Martian surface? Scientists have been wondering for a long time – and may soon know more.
For the first time, NASA and DLR (German Aerospace Center) want to measure the temperature of the planet, measure how heat flows out of the planet and drives this inspirational geology. The discovery of this escaping heat will be a critical part of a mission led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, InSight (seismic exploration, geodesy, and heat transport indoor exploration).
InSight will be the first mission to investigate Mars & # 39; Deep Interior & # 39 ;, which uses its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument to measure heat as it passes from the interior to the planetary surface. This energy was partially taken when Mars emerged more than 4 billion years ago, and documented its formation. This energy is also due to the decay of radioactive elements in the rocky interior.
The way heat moves through the mantle and crust of a planet determines what surface properties it will have, said Sue Smrekar of JPL, Deputy Project Leader of the Mission Deputy Chief of HP3
"The Most The geology of the planet is a result of heat, "said Smrekar. "Volcanic eruptions in the ancient past were fueled by the flow of heat that shoots and builds the mighty mountains Mars is famous for."
A Mole for Mars
While Scientists Modeled the Model InSight will provide the first opportunity to find the truth – by literally looking underground.
HP3, built and operated by DLR, will be placed on the surface of Mars after InSight landed on November 26, 2018 A probe called a mole will bang the ground, bury itself, and drag a tether behind it. Temperature sensors embedded in this band measure the natural internal heat of Mars.
That's not an easy task. The mole must dig deep enough to escape the large temperature fluctuations of the Martian surface. Even the "body heat" of the spacecraft could interfere with HP3's highly sensitive readings.
"If the birthmark hangs higher than expected, we can measure temperature fluctuations," HP3 leads Tilman Spohn from DLR. "Our data will be more noisy, but we can deduct daily and seasonal weather variations by comparing them to ground temperature measurements."
In addition to digging, the mole releases heat pulses. Scientists will investigate how quickly the mole warms the surrounding rock and allows them to find out how well the heat is conducted from the rock at the landing site. Densely packed grains conduct heat better – an important part of the equation for determining the internal energy of Mars.
Bringing a new planet to life
Imagine an example of a planetary heat flow on a stove
When water is heated, it expands, becomes less dense, and rises. The cooler, denser water sinks to the ground where it heats up. This change from cool to hot is called convection. The same thing happens in a planet that swirls up the rock for millions of years.
Just as expanding bubbles can push a pot lid off, volcanoes are blown away from the top of a world. They form the surface of a planet. Most of the atmosphere on rocky planets forms when volcanoes eject gas from deeper depths. It is believed that some of Mars' largest dry riverbeds formed when the Tharsis volcanoes spewed gas into the atmosphere. This gas contained water vapor, which cooled in liquid and could have formed the channels around Tharsis.
The smaller the planet, the faster it loses its original warmth. Since Mars is only one-third the size of Earth, most of the heat was lost early in its history. Most of Mars' geological activities, including volcanism, occurred in the first billion years of the planet.
"We want to know what drove the early volcanism and climate change on Mars," Spohn said. "How much heat has Mars started, how much was left to fuel its volcanism?"
The NASA orbiter has given the scientists a "macro" view of the planet so that they could study Martian geology from above. HP3 offers a first view of the interior of Mars.
"Planets are like a motor driven by heat that moves their inner parts," said Smrekar. "With HP3 we will lift the hood of Mars for the first time."
What scientists learn during the InSight mission is not just for Mars. It will teach them how all the rocky planets formed – including the Earth, their moon and even planets in other solar systems.
NASA's InSight goes halfway to Mars, instruments check in
For more information about InSight, see mars.nasa.gov/insight