Scientists from the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ORB) will attend Saturday’s launch of NASA’s new mission to Mars, InSight, which will take off from the Vandenberg military base in California, the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) said in a press release on Thursday. The aim of the US space agency’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is to study the core of the red planet, observing its seismic activity, internal temperature and rotation, BELSPO explained.
During the mission, the researchers will also try to detect the “marsquakes”, the planet’s version of earthquakes, for the first time, through the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) seismometer developed by the French space agency, CNES, and on which Professor Veronique Dahant of the ORB is collaborating.
A heat flow probe placed at the end of a drill pipe will measure the temperature of the interior of the planet up to 3, or even 5, metres beneath the surface of the planet, a depth never reached during previous missions, BELSPO stressed in its press release.
The Observatory will alsoparticipate in analysing data from a third instrument, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, RISE. Radio signals exchanged between the Earth and RISE will enable the scientists to track variations in the planet’s rotation, thus reflecting the structure of its interior.
If everything goes according to plan, the InSight mission will take off at 1305 (1.05 pm) Belgian time on the 5th of May. However, the launch window will remain open until the 8th of June. Arrival on the surface of Mars is scheduled for the 26th of November and the mission will last at least two years.