Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Where on Mars

Yesterday NASA successfully landed the InSight probe on the surface of Mars. (Is there) Life on Mars is an interactive map of the red planet, which has been updated to show the location where NASA's InSight robot landed on Mars. InSight has landed on the Elysium Planitia, a large, flat and featureless plain, which is close to the planet's equator and perfect for landing spacecraft. It is also the perfect location for InSight's mission to explore the planet's core.

The actual name of the robot 'InSight' is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. InSight has three main instruments. A seismometer, which will measure submartian seismic activity or Marsquakes beneath the surface of the planet. A heat probe, which will be buried 5 meters into the ground and which will measure how heat rises through the planet. Thirdly, InSight is also equipped with antennas designed to measure how much the planet wobbles on its axis. This will help to determine the size and density of the planet's core.

The (Is there) Life on Mars interactive map explores some of the questions around whether life exists on Mars. InSight will hopefully help us to answer this question as well. Earth’s rotating molten iron core generates the magnetic field that shields life from harmful radiation and stops Earth's atmosphere from shooting off into space. At some point Mars lost its magnetic field and its atmosphere. Learning more about Mars' inner core will help scientists understand how and why Mars lost its magnetic field. InSight may also help us learn more about conditions under the surface of Mars and whether life might have survived on Mars by retreating beneath the surface of the planet.

If you want to know what Mars might look like with an atmosphere then you can use the (Is there) Life on Mars map to explore a red planet which still has water. The map's Water Layer allows you to view water on the surface of Mars based on the planet's elevation data. Using this layer you can add lakes, seas and oceans to Mars and turn the red planet partly green (read the 'details' for an explanation as to why water on Mars wouldn't appear blue).

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