The NASA InSight probe has been on the ground of Mars since 2018, but it has just made a major discovery.
The InSight probe has been on the surface of Mars for a few years, and the least we can say is that NASA did not wait long to bring back the first information. In August and September 2021, the probe had already spotted two earthquakes of magnitudes 4.1 and 4.2. But it was surely nothing compared to the violence of the event which was spotted on May 4th.
Since arriving on the Red Planet four years ago, the probe has been studying the planet’s core, mantle and crust. An unprecedented seismological study of our red neighbour, which makes it possible to understand the geological evolutions of the planet. According to Britcannica, earthquakes with a magnitude of 4 to 5 can be felt, but these usually do not cause damage.
Earthquakes that reveal a lot of information
Very frequent on Earth, these earthquakes are also frequent on Mars. Since the start of its analysis, InSight has spotted nearly 1,000 earthquakes, but none of them came close to the May 4 earthquake. For the moment NASA has simply communicated on the discovery of this “rumble” coming from the bowels of the red planet, without giving many details or explanations on the reasons for this sound.
It will therefore be necessary to wait weeks, even months, for planetary scientists to disentangle the true from the false and manage to understand where this sound comes from and how it is explained. Martian earthquakes will reflect on the different rock layers of the planet. These oscillations due to the earthquake, which vary according to the materials encountered, make it possible to better understand how the planet is built.
NASA can therefore obtain a very precise image of the interior of Mars, in particular of the composition of the crust and the mantle of the red planet. But despite the recent success of the InSight probe, NASA remains very cautious about the future of this mission.
A turning point for the InSight mission?
Indeed, the probe failed to pierce the Martian regolith, in particular to place its “Mole” thermal probe, which was to be one of the central elements of the mission. A failure that was recently joined by the arrival of Martian dust on the solar panels of the InSight probe. The teams in charge of the probe were then afraid that the latter would be rendered unusable by the dust, which clings to the solar panels and is very difficult to remove.
Despite obstructed panels, the probe still works, and it continues to “tend its ears” towards the bowels of the planet Mars to learn its smallest secrets.