Mars? Why not build a base on the Moon? In fact, we know it better and it is closer to Earth. The Moon is a springboard to other celestial bodies. In addition, we use it as a gravitational ramp to accelerate and save fuel with our space probes.
The human being visited the Moon in the sixties and seventies. And the astronauts returned home safe and sound. And without the Apollo missions, we would never have dared to dream of InSight.
InSight was launched on May 5, 2018, with an Atlas rocket from California. His landing took place on November 26 in the Plain of Elysee, on Mars, after seven years of work and seven months of travel through space.
The excitement and hubbub overflowed the control center of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Thus lived the historic achievement.
The process was perfect: the activation of the parachute, the deployment of its legs and the reduction of speed from 19,800 km / h to 8 km / h in just seven minutes.
The mission will last just over a Martian year (about 2 Earth years); 708 lunar days, or 728 earth days.
Journey to the past
The curiosity and fascination with knowing how Mars is are immense. The more we know about Mars, the more we understand our Earth. We already know a lot about our solar system, but not about the formation of the planets. "We believe that heat is produced when gas and dust collide in the solar system, forming a planet thanks to the force of gravity. It's so much heat that the planet melts, "explains Suzanne Smrekar, deputy director of InSight mission research projects.
"The Earth and Mars are two rocky planets arisen at the same time"
– Annick Sylvestre-Baron, head of the Mars InSight project
Then, "the planet cools and crystals begin to form," Smrekar adds. Heavier materials sink and form the mantle of the planet. Iron and nickel form a metallic core, while the lighter material amounts to a primary crust. These are basic structures shared by rocky planets, such as Earth and Mars. Its layers, mantles and cores, however, have a different chemical composition. These are precisely the layers that InSight will investigate on Mars.
Taking the pulse of Mars
The Moon has revealed some, but not all, secrets about the rise of the planets. "Neither the pressure nor the internal temperatures of the Moon are as high as on Earth and on Mars," says Smrekar.
InSight will measure the thermal conductivity of the red planet with a "heat flux probe" and record the movements of the tectonic plates as well as other seismic activities. The probe will also check how much the Martian North Pole is moving while Mars is orbiting around the Sun. Researchers therefore want to find out if the Mars core is liquid and if it contains a metal other than iron.
"Earth and Mars are two rocky planets at the same time," says Annick Sylvester-Baron, deputy head of the project, adding that "while the Earth is still alive, Mars became an icy desert about 3,500 million years ago" . The French CNES seismic measurement system will take the pulse of Mars. And the HP3 heat flux probe, developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), will do the same. HP3 will penetrate about 5 meters into the Martian soil.
"Humanity needs to know where it comes from and where it is going," concludes Sylvestre-Baron. So, if everything works, InSight will be able to teach us more about our solar system and reveal secrets about life on Earth.