Dec 14th: Searching for Buried Secrets on Mars

By on December 14, 2018 in
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Podcaster: Richard Drumm
Title:
Space Scoop: Searching for Buried Secrets on Mars

Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy

Link : astrosphere.org ; http://unawe.org/kids/unawe1829/

Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.

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Transcript:
This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Searching for Buried Secrets on Mars

A quick search on Instagram reveals over 350 million pictures posted with the hashtag “selfie”. But none of them hold a candle to the selfie NASA received in December 2018, from the InSight lander on Mars!

That photograph was taken shortly after InSight landed on Mars on November 26th, after a six month flight. The picture shows part of the spacecraft and, in the distance, the dusty surface of the red planet.

InSight landed right on target on a large, flat plain close to Mars’s equator. The area is so flat and empty it’s been nicknamed the “biggest parking lot on Mars”. This is exactly what NASA wanted.

Landing on top of a large rock or on a steep slope could have spelled the end for InSight, causing it to tilt or roll over. Plus, the spacecraft has no interest in the cliffs and valleys on Mars’ surface.

Unlike the rovers of the past, it will be digging deep below the ground to study the inside the planet.

An instrument named the HP3 or Heat flow and Physical Properties Package is nicknamed the “mole.” It will burrow itself five meters beneath the surface in search for those buried secrets, like how much heat is coming from the planet’s core.

Another instrument, called SEIS or the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, is a seismometer about the size of a volleyball. It’ll measure tiny movements caused by landslides, dust storms, meteor strikes, and even the so-called “Marsquakes”, which are Mars’s earthquakes.

Working together these instruments will provide us with a picture of the inside of Mars, similar to the way an ultrasound or X-ray lets doctors “see” inside a human body.

This will help us figure out all kinds of things, like how rocky planets like Mars and Earth formed and how they’ve changed over time. Insight might even provide clues about where life comes from — and maybe even how it can disappear.

There is also the RISE or the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment that monitors the weather & surface temperature at the landing site.

It stays on the lander’s deck and beams X-band radio signals back to Earth for an hour each day. It’ll do this for a couple years in order to detect any subtle wobbles in Mars’s rotation.

With its oceans, weather and human activity, our own planet is constantly changing and it’s far distant history is long-lost. But Mars has remained pretty much the same for millions of years, giving us a clear view into the planet’s past.

Hey, Here’s A Cool Fact:
InSight wasn’t alone on its journey to Mars, it was joined by two hitchhikers: the MarCO or MarsCube One cubesats.

These two tiny satellites sent messages back to Earth during Insight’s daring landing, letting us know all was well. They then flew past Mars out into space.

Oh how I wish they’d called them MarCO and POLO! Oh well.

Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

About Richard B. Drumm

Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He’s found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.

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