After traveling about 300 million kilometers, the NASA InSight mission will arrive on the surface of Mars today and install a seismometer and a thermal sensor to decipher the "deep interior" of the so-called "red planet."
This stationary module, which took off on May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will use a mechanical excavator to drill down to about 5 feet deep and measure its internal temperature, plus any internal movement with the help of a seismograph.
"It is the first mission that will study the deep interior of Mars," said Fernando Abilleira, deputy director of design and navigation at InSight and part of the multidisciplinary and international team that makes up the mission.
"By studying the propagation of waves below the surface of Mars through its seismograph, we will have more information on how it has evolved" over the last 3 billion years, he added.
Abilleira, with 17 years of service in NASA space projects, is part of the engineers and scientists who will study at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL-NASA) in Pasadena, California on Monday, the "vital signs" of the neighboring planet, as their "pulsations, temperature".
He added to the Spaniards that through a "precision tracking" he will observe "even the reflections" during the two years of "primary experiments" that the mission will entail.
In order to increase knowledge about the formation of Mars and other rocky planets of the Solar System, such as Earth, the Seismic Experiment for the Interior Structure (SEIS), a seismometer manufactured by the National Center for Aerospace Studies of France (CNES) will be used. and will detect "any movement on the surface of Mars," Abilleira said.
The vibrations that will be recorded by the SIX can be caused by the impact of a meteorite or a small earthquake, although the seismic activity of the "red planet" is smaller than that of Earth. "By studying the movement of the waves they spread beneath the surface of Mars, we can have a better understanding of the composition, core structure, mantle and crust of the planet," he added.
The other tool that acquires prominence is the Physical Properties and Heat Flow Probe (HP3), built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which will be deployed on Martian soil about 5 meters deep.
"This instrument has thermal sensors that will collect information about the thermal activity of the red planet," said Abilleira, who pointed out that Spain contributed to this mission with an environmental station (REMS) equipped with meteorological sensors for the Martian environment.
The spacecraft trajectory expert who traced the path of the "Curiosity" robot, which hit the red planet in August 2012, states that "landing on Mars is very complicated."
"Atmospheric speed is about 20,000 kilometers per hour and in less than 7 minutes we have to reduce that speed to 5 kilometers per hour," said Abilleira of the University of Saint Louis in Missouri.
After a voyage of more than 6 months, the InSight mission will cross at five in the afternoon of Monday, Uruguayan time, the Martian atmosphere and land on the surface. A robotic arm will land the scientific instruments that will be installed on the Martian soil.
Insight's mission should provide clues about how the Solar System originated 4,600 million years ago.