Move Over, Rover!
On Monday, November 26, NASA’s Mars spacecraft lander InSight touched down on the surface of the red planet. Over the past 47 years, there have been 18 landing attempts on Mars, and, including InSight, only eight have been successful. The InSight lander will stay in one place for its two-year mission. Its job is to study the interior of the planet with a temperature probe and a sensitive seismometer. The temperature probe will measure the heat escaping from the planet’s interior, and the seismometer will detect “marsquakes,” which can be used to understand the deep interior of the planet. These devices will begin gathering data in two to three months. In addition, an attached camera has already taken photos of the planet’s surface, which have been relayed back to Earth.
The InSight may be the most recent, but it is far from the only vehicle exploring the planet. Marc Taylor, Manager of Planetarium and Science Programs at the HRM, states, “At the moment, there are five spacecraft orbiting Mars: one from India, two from the European Space Agency, and two from NASA. Another is driving around on the surface: the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which might not look like it’s designed for outer space, but it is every bit as advanced, radiation-hardened, and spaceworthy as its orbiting cousins.”
Learn more about Mars—the only planet visible after sunset right now!—in our weekly planetarium show, The Sky Tonight.