Artistic vision of the internal structure of the Red Planet. The upper layer is the crust, then the mantle is supported on the inner core.
Next year, researchers plan to look deep into the Martian surface. NASA is going to send the first robotic landing gear, studying the bowels of the planet. The InSight project (interior research) will use seismic analyzes to examine the Martian crust, the mantle and the core.
Seismology (the study of earthquakes) has already managed to answer many questions on Earth. But our planet exists for billions of years, hiding ancient history. Mars is half the size of Earth, therefore it is considered a fossil planet.
When the rocks crack or shift, seismic waves are created that propagate throughout the planet. We used to call them earthquakes. They differ in density and depend on the geological material through which they pass.
The SEIS InSight seismometer is able to determine the size, frequency and speed of jerks, providing scientists with images of the material through which they make their way. The geological record of the Red Planet includes light stones and minerals that have risen from the inside of the planet to create the crust. But heavier rocks and minerals plunged into the mantle and core. Having understood these layers, it is possible to understand why some rocky planets manage to become “lands” and not “Venus” or “Mars”.
Are there shakes on Mars? And what can they tell about the Red Planet?
Every time a shake takes place on the planet, InSight manages to take a “snapshot” of the Martian interior. The team believes that during the mission, the device should record at least several tens or hundreds of shocks. In addition, do not forget about regular small meteorites passing through the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet.
At first the picture will appear fuzzy. But the more observations, the better the visibility becomes. One of the tasks is to get a full view of the planet.
Moon and Martian Shakes
It is important to understand that InSight will not be the first mission in seismology. For example, Apollo had 4 seismometers for the moon. Astronauts made special explosions to create vibrations reaching up to 100 m below the surface. They also smashed the first stages, forming shakes and studying the bark.
Viking stations tried to conduct seismology on Mars in the late 1970s. But they were at the tops of the landing gear swaying in the wind. InSight will have a lot more features. For example, the Doppler shift from the radio signal of the landing site will help to understand the state of the Martian core, and the probe will measure the internal temperature.