News Article | April 17, 2017
International cooperation is an essential prerequisite for long-term success in atmospheric sciences, an enterprise of global scale by its very nature. Knowledgeable scholars from many countries, and through them also their home institutions, have been taking part in focused workshops for more than a century. Group photographs from such occasions are regarded as visual datasets, the value of which is much enhanced if full names and national context of the participants are displayed as well. In a recent contribution to the "News & Views" section of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, Hans Volkert (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt [DLR], Germany) briefly recalls the gradual development of organized voluntary cooperation in atmospheric sciences under the auspices of non-governmental as well as inter-governmental bodies, as, respectively, the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which tend to structures their work in technical commissions. Annotated group photographs from two workshops, separated by no less than 95 years, are presented and discussed alongside a number of references to other examples in the accessible literature. "We should never forget that scientific research does not constitute an abstract aim, but it is always undertaken by people for people. 'Putting faces to names' underscores the human(e) dimension of scientific endeavours" says Volkert. The article should also be of interest to colleagues from history of science and sociology. Dr. Hans Volkert was the Secretary General of International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS) during 2007-2015. In June 2015, he was appointed by the Council of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), as chair of the IUGG Working Group on History (WGH), which has the Union's centenary in 2019 as a special target for its activities.
News Article | December 4, 2015
This artist's concept from August 2015 depicts NASA's InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. The mission will launch during the period March 4 to March 30, 2016, and land on Mars Sept. 28, 2016. This illustration updates the correct placement and look of Insight's main instruments. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech A key science instrument that will be carried aboard NASA's Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft being prepared for launch in March 2016 is experiencing a leak in the vacuum container carrying its main sensors. The sensors are part of an instrument called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which is provided by the French Space Agency (CNES). The seismometer is the prime science payload that will help answer questions about the interior structure and processes within the deep Martian interior. The SEIS instrument has three high-sensitivity seismometers enclosed in a sealed sphere. The seismometers need to operate in a vacuum in order to provide exquisite sensitivity to ground motions as small as the width of an atom. After the final sealing of the sphere, a small leak was detected, that would have prevented meeting the science requirements once delivered to the surface of Mars. The CNES/JPL team is currently working to repair the leak, prior to instrument integration and final environmental tests in France before shipping to the United States for installation into the spacecraft and launch. The InSight lander has completed assembly and testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Colorado, and is being prepared to ship to the Vandenberg AFB launch site. Installation of the seismometer is planned for early January. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) from Germany and the rest of the scientific payload are already installed. NASA and CNES managers are committed to launching in March and are currently assessing the launch window timeline. This will be the first launch on the West Coast of a Mars mission and the first project devoted to investigating the deep interior of the Red Planet. Explore further: New insight on Mars expected from new NASA mission
News Article | October 25, 2016
We process the SuGAr raw data using the GPS-Inferred Positioning System and Orbit Analysis Simulation Software (GIPSY-OASIS) software (hosted at https://gipsy-oasis.jpl.nasa.gov/). To extract the postseismic transient due to the 2012 M 8.6 Indian Ocean earthquake, we identify and remove the signals from other earthquakes in the entire available time series for each component of each station. In this procedure, we simultaneously estimate the linear long-term rates, coseismic, postseismic, and seasonal signals by nonlinear least-squares fitting. A complete description of these steps can be found in refs 6 and 31. We isolate the postseismic deformation from the 2012 Indian Ocean earthquake sequence by removing the contribution of all other identified sources. The resulting time series is shown in Extended Data Fig. 1. The effect of the transient creep of rocks, whether for diffusion creep or dislocation creep, is well known in the laboratory and some studies suggest that it is important to incorporate it in models of postseismic deformation18, 19, 20 or postglacial rebound32. Several attempts have been made to formulate a rheological law for transient creep33, 34, 35, 36, 37, but they have important shortcomings. For example, laws such as33, 34 where A, q and r are positive constitutive parameters, or35, 36 where B, ε , r and s are positive constants, can create only a single transient creep episode, as plastic strain systematically increases, and therefore they do not describe transient creep for repeated earthquake stress perturbations. Some other laws, such as the so-called Andrade creep37 where is the steady-state strain rate and A and B are positive parameters, are singular38 at t = 0, for n > 1. More fundamentally, laws such as equation (3) fail to satisfy fundamental principles such as time-frame invariance (the same flow should be predicted for any clock). There are several ways to formulate a rheology for the transient creep of olivine by invoking work hardening. For simplicity, we propose a generalization of the Burgers rheology. The Burgers rheology may appropriately represent transient creep in the diffusion creep regime, and we adapt it to be compatible with the power-law steady state of dislocation creep. In a Burgers material, where the Kelvin element and the Maxwell element are in series, the inelastic strain rate can be written where is the inelastic strain rate in the Kelvin element and is the inelastic strain rate in the Maxwell element. The strain rate of the Maxwell element is given by where the parameters are defined in the main text. In general, we can then formulate a generalized rheology for the Kelvin element of the form where σ is the deviatoric stress (the same as in the Maxwell element in series) and is the stress in the Kelvin dashpot. Because the functional form f is unknown, we assume for simplicity that it is the same as for the steady-state creep where G is a work hardening coefficient. In the absence of detailed laboratory data on wet olivine, we assume that the thermodynamic parameters for transient and steady-state creep are the same (for wet olivine, ref. 16 shows that flow law parameters are similar between transient and steady-state creep except for the pre-exponential factor). However, laboratory experiments indicate that if transient creep is due to the transition of slip from the soft slip system to the hard slip system of olivine, transient creep should be less sensitive to the water content22. At the background stress σ , if the flow is at steady state (that is, = 0), we have where is the cumulative strain at the background stress. After a stress perturbation from an earthquake, the stress changes from and the rate of transient creep instantaneously becomes . So transient creep, unlike steady-state creep, is not sensitive to the background stress during the postseismic transient, unless it was not at steady state. Multiple stress perturbations also lead to multiple transient creep episodes. We explore the predictions of the proposed rheology in a spring-slider system. Together with the constitutive relationship, conservation of momentum leads to the system of coupled ordinary differential equations We solve these equations numerically with unit stress perturbations and typical laboratory-derived constitutive properties (Extended Data Fig. 2). The transient creep accelerates the immediate relaxation that follows the stress perturbation and the subsequent relaxation is slower, compared to when operating at steady state only. The hardening coefficient G controls the amount of strain that is relaxed by transient creep. We generalize the constitutive relationship for transient creep for three-dimensional deformation with isotropic rheology. The constitutive relationship becomes where the subscripts i and j are the tensor indices is the internal deviatoric stress tensor and q2 = Q Q is the norm of the internal deviatoric stress tensor (we use Einstein’s summation convention). We implement these constitutive relationships in the community code Relax (www.geodynamics.org/cig/software/relax), such that we can simulate three-dimensional models of postseismic deformation that includes afterslip, viscoelastic flow and the transient creep of olivine in a self-consistent manner. Extended Data Figure 2b and c shows the predicted time series at a few SuGAr stations for various values of G . The dynamics of postseismic deformation is sensitive to the stress preceding the coseismic perturbation in the asthenosphere because of the power-law dependence in the stress–strain rate relationship. Our mechanical model for the power-law flow of olivine includes (1) the background strain rate due to the shear arising from the vertical gradient of horizontal flow, which is associated with the long-term oblique subduction of the oceanic lithosphere below Sumatra, and (2) the pure shear associated with internal deformation by conjugate strike–slip faulting of the Wharton basin along the diffuse boundary between the Indian and Australian plates. We convert the background strain rate to pre-stress, accounting for the water content, temperature and the other physical parameters of olivine rheology. We assume a homogeneous velocity gradient from the surface (plate velocity of 5.6 cm yr−1 oriented 10° N; Fig. 1) to a relative fixed transition zone. The orientation of the conjugate faults in the Wharton basin suggests that the deformation in the lithosphere is horizontal pure shear39 with principal stress orientation between −30° N and −25° N for the compressive component and between 60° N and 65° N for the extensive component (Fig. 3). The long-term strain rate is the sum of the linear (diffusion creep) and nonlinear (dislocation creep) strain rate contributions where η and η are the effective viscosities for diffusion and dislocation creep, respectively. While the linear viscosity due to diffusion creep has little effect on the initial postseismic deformation and cannot be directly estimated (Fig. 2b), it does affect the background stress So a low-viscosity diffusion creep reduces the background stress and the associated strain rate for dislocation creep. We consider two end-member models for the background strain rate . In a first model, plate motion is accommodated in the mantle across a 100-km-thick region, leading to a background strain rate of 2 × 10−14 s−1. In a second model, the region is 400 km thick, leading to a background strain rate of 5 × 10−15 s−1. Considering these models one at a time, we investigate a range of strain rates for dislocation creep ranging from full background strain rate (corresponding to vanishing diffusion creep in the model) to 1 × 10−17 s−1 (corresponding to dominant diffusion creep at steady state). We find that our geodetic data are best explained with a dislocation strain rate of the order of 10−17 s−1 to 10−16 s−1, corresponding to grain size between 6 mm and 10 mm depending on the background strain rate. This indicates that diffusion creep and dislocation creep have similar strengths in the asthenosphere at steady state. The strength of diffusion creep is lower than the one for dislocation creep for grain sizes lower than 6 mm (Fig. 2b). The recent great and giant earthquakes along the Sunda megathrust affected the background stress preceding the 2012 earthquake sequence40. To estimate this effect, we evaluate the deviatoric stress change in the asthenosphere at the time of the 2012 event caused by the nearby 2004 M 9.2 Aceh–Andaman and the 2005 M 8.6 Nias earthquakes (Extended Data Fig. 3). The deviatoric stress near the rupture area of the 2012 event at 100 km depth due to these earthquakes is about two orders of magnitude smaller than the coseismic stress change. For simplicity we ignore the stress caused by the Sunda megathrust earthquakes in our simulations. The strength of the brittle lithosphere can be evaluated from the orientation of the conjugate faults using Byerlee’s law (τ = μ′σ ). The effective coefficient of friction is given by where θ is the angle between the fault and the principal stress. The direction of the principle stress should bisect the conjugate faults. In the Indian Ocean earthquake rupture, the main conjugate faults are nearly orthogonal (Figs 1 and 3), providing an estimate of the effective coefficient of friction in the range 0.1–0.2. The exact orientation of the rupture fault is still subject to debate6, affecting our estimate of the effective friction coefficient. The inferred small friction coefficient in the Wharton basin reduces the strength of the brittle lithosphere (Fig. 3a). The thickness of the lithosphere can be independently estimated from the depth of the coseismic rupture of the 2012 M 8.6 Indian Ocean earthquake as substantial coseismic slip occurred down to 60 km depth4. The reason for the great depth extent of the rupture is unclear, but strong dynamic weakening from frictional melting may have allowed the rupture to penetrate below the seismogenic zone. The depth range from 45 km to 60 km where coseismic slip tapers from its maximum value may correspond to the lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary (Fig. 3a). We build a three-dimensional model of the lithosphere and asthenosphere in which the flow parameters depend on depth, except in the subducted slab where viscosity is infinite, resulting in a three-dimensional rheological model. The background depth-dependent viscosity is thermally activated following a half-space cooling model with T = 0 °C, where T is the mantle temperature (a free parameter), the plate age t varies spatially following the model of ref. 24, the thermal diffusivity is Κ = kρ −1C −1 with conductivity k = 3.138 W m−1 K−1, the specific heat is C = 1.171 kJ kg−1 K−1, the density is ρ = 3.330 kg m−3, α = 0.4 °C km−1 is the adiabatic temperature gradient, H(z) is the Heaviside function, and z = 100 km is the depth of the thermal boundary layer for a 60-million-old oceanic plate (Fig. 2b). In our models, most of the postseismic deformation occurs around 100 km depth, where the coseismic stress change is high, so the adiabatic temperature gradient has almost no effect on our water content estimates. The elastic slab is constructed using the Slab 1.0 model41 with a uniform thickness of 80 km. Because the accelerated flow is concentrated in areas of high coseismic stress change, immediately below the mainshock, the effect of the slab does not greatly affect the fit to the geodetic data. We create models of postseismic relaxation where the coseismic stresses from the mainshock and the largest aftershock are potentially relaxed by both afterslip in the lithosphere and viscoelastic flow in the asthenosphere, depending on the rheological parameters. We use the coseismic slip models of ref. 4 to produce the stress perturbation and to define the geometry of faults for afterslip. In our relaxation models, both afterslip and viscoelastic deformation are driven by stress and the coupling between the two mechanisms is taken into account. Afterslip is allowed only on the faults that ruptured coseismically, around the areas of negative coseismic stress change. We assume uniform friction properties outside the rupture area, as only near-field data would motivate finer-tuned models. We model afterslip with rate-strengthening friction, a simplification of the rate-and-state friction law that is adequate to represent triggered aseismic slip at steady state8, 9, 10. In the rate-strengthening approximation the afterslip velocity V is given by25 where Δτ is the stress change after the mainshock, (a − b) is the steady-state friction parameter and σ is the effective normal stress on the fault. We assume a uniform (a − b)σ = 6 MPa in our simulations and we explore values of V that best explain the geodetic observations in combination with other mechanisms of deformation (Extended Data Fig. 6). The calculations are performed using the Relax software (www.geodynamics.org), which employs a spectral method to evaluate the quasi-static deformation caused by stress perturbations. The method incorporates an equivalent body-force representation of dislocations that allows us to include detailed finite slip distributions. The equivalent body-force method is advantageous compared to other approaches such as finite-element methods because meshing of the domain around three-dimensional faults is automatic. The numerical approach has been validated using comparisons with analytic solutions for fault slip and comparisons with finite-element solutions in simple geometric settings23, 25, 42, 43. Another advantage of the Relax software and the equivalent body-force method is the ability to simulate several physical mechanisms of deformation simultaneously and to include nonlinear rheologies for plastic flow8, 9, 10. Afterslip as a single mechanism of postseismic deformation predicts horizontal deformation compatible with the observation. However, the vertical displacement predicted by afterslip in the nearest stations is opposite to observations, suggesting another active process of postseismic deformation, such as viscoelastic relaxation in the asthenosphere (Extended Data Fig. 4). Viscoelastic flow in the upper mantle can occur by diffusion creep, dislocation creep, or a combination of both7. The physical properties of dislocation creep in olivine are well known from a wealth of laboratory experiments documenting the effect of temperature, pressure7 and water44. The properties of diffusion creep of olivine are less well known because of its great sensitivity to grain size. Several field samples show that both diffusion creep and dislocation creep act in tandem to deform mylonite shear zones below the brittle-to-ductile transition45. Experimental work suggests that dislocation creep of olivine is the dominant mechanism of deformation in the upper-mantle conditions2, 46. But competition between grain growth during diffusion creep and grain size reduction by dislocation creep can promote comparable strain rate at these depths at equilibrium. In this case, dislocation creep should dominate postseismic deformation following a large stress perturbation because of the power-law stress–strain rate dependence. As the stress is reduced by postseismic relaxation the contributions of both mechanisms should become similar again. Following these considerations we first tested the potential of dislocation creep to explain the postseismic transient. Initially, we ignored the transient creep of olivine. We find that nonlinear viscoelastic deformation produces vertical displacements compatible with observations and horizontal displacements in the correct azimuth. However, the amplitude of horizontal displacements is lower than observed. We conclude that steady-state dislocation creep cannot explain the entire set of observations. Instead, we find that only a combination of afterslip on the Indian Ocean coseismic faults and viscoelastic flow can satisfactorily explain the GPS observations. We use a Bayesian approach to estimate the water content in olivine, assimilating prior information from geochemical estimates and additional constraints from geodetic observations. The posterior probability density is47 where ν is a constant, d is the GPS data vector, g(m) is the forward model based on parameters m, C is the data covariance matrix and ρ is the prior information. Geochemistry provides limits on the water content in the mid-ocean ridge basalt source. We include these constraints on water content using a log-normal distribution (Fig. 2a). For the afterslip parameter V , we assume the uniform prior 1/V , which corresponds to the limit of a log-normal distribution for infinite variance (Extended Data Fig. 6a). We assume that the geodetic data are independently and normally distributed. In principle, the joint probability density of all physical parameters can be estimated, but we limit our exploration to two physical parameters at a time to reduce the computational burden. In a first step, we jointly estimate the water content in olivine and the rate-strengthening parameters for afterslip, and assume all other parameters to be fixed. In a second step, we change the in situ parameters manually to explore a range of conditions. We sample the posterior probability density using the Neighbourhood algorithm48, a derivative-free Markov chain Monte Carlo method. The inversion tool, dubbed Relax-Miracle, uses Relax for the forward models. We benchmark the approach using a synthetic data set using the GPS network configuration of the Sumatra GPS Array. We create a forward model with a known water content and afterslip parameter and we use this data set as an input data to our inversion scheme. The posterior probability density function not only recovers the target parameters but also informs us of the inherent tradeoffs between the two relaxation mechanisms (Extended Data Fig. 5). We explore uniform water content C in olivine in the range 0.0003 to 0.04 wt% (50 to 6,000 H atoms per million Si atoms), mantle temperatures T from 1,350 °C to 1,400 °C, and reference velocities for afterslip in the range V = 0–2.75 μm s−1. We explore different values of the transient creep parameters A from A = 0 to A = 3A, and G from G/2 to 3G. We assume all other physical and in situ parameters the same for transient creep and steady-state creep. We assume that the laboratory-derived values for the constitutive parameters, which were carried out at much higher strain rate than at typical geological conditions, scale to natural conditions. Geodesy cannot independently constrain the water sensitivity of transient creep and the parameter A , so the product A (C )r for transient creep should be considered as a lump parameter. We also investigate a range of strain rates for dislocation creep from 10−17 s−1 to 2 × 10−14 s−1. Our best-fitting model in Fig. 2 has V = 1.75 × 10−6 m s−1, A = A/2, and G = G. Incorporating transient creep affects the estimate of water content in the mantle, as previously inferred in other studies49, 50, by lowering the water content required to fit the data (Fig. 2a). The inferred afterslip parameter V is similar to what is found in other tectonic settings25, 51. We obtain the probability density function of the water content in the asthenosphere by either marginalizing out the afterslip parameter where m is the water content in olivine and m is the afterslip parameter; or taking the conditional probability density function around the most likely value of the bivariate distribution where m is the most likely value of the afterslip parameter. The posterior probability density function for water content and afterslip in the Wharton basin is shown in Fig. 2a and Extended Data Fig. 6. The best-fit forward model is shown in Fig. 2 and Extended Data Fig. 7. The small misfit in the GPS time series may be due to our simplifying modelling assumptions, which ignore reactivation of the megathrust or the Sumatran fault and internal deformation of the accretionary prism. The numerical software used in this study is hosted at https://bitbucket.org and is available from the corresponding author on request.
News Article | March 10, 2016
This month NASA was supposed to launch the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. After traveling millions upon millions of miles, the spacecraft would’ve sent a lander down to the Martian surface to investigate the deep interior of the planet. But, as with so many things in life, there was a hiccup. In December 2015, NASA announced the suspension of the 2016 launch. An extreme cold temperature test of the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, which measures ground movements, resulted in a leak. The device was being tested at temperatures around -49 degrees F. Attempts to repair the leak were unsuccessful. Hope for the mission is not lost. NASA, this past week, announced that the mission’s new launch window starts May 5, 2018, which gets the lander to the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018. While the cost of the two-year delay is unknown at the moment, NASA has decided to redesign the SEIS instrument. The “instrument’s main sensors need to operate within a vacuum chamber to provide the exquisite sensitivity needed for measuring ground movements as small as half the radius of a hydrogen atom,” according to NASA. “The rework of the seismometer’s vacuum container will result in a finished, thoroughly tested instrument in 2017 that will maintain a high degree of vacuum around the sensors through rigors of launch, landing, deployment, and a two-year prime mission on the surface of Mars.” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will take the lead redesigning, building, and qualifying the new component. French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) will be responsible for instrument level integration and test activities. “The shared and renewed commitment to this mission continues our collaboration to find clues in the heart of Mars about the early evolution of our solar system,” said Director Marc Pircher, of CNES’ Toulouse Space Centre, in a statement. The international partnership that led to the InSight mission includes the lander’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, which was supplied by the German Aerospace Center. The package has a probe designed to penetrate the Martian’s surface up to about 16 ft. John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, called the mission’s plan going forward strong. “The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a longstanding goal of planetary scientists for decades,” he said in a statement. “We’re excited to be back on the path for a launch.” Establish your company as a technology leader! For more than 50 years, the R&D 100 Awards have showcased new products of technological significance. You can join this exclusive community! Learn more.
News Article | September 5, 2016
Finally, NASA's InSight lander mission is set for takeoff in the spring of 2018. It was announced on Friday, Sept. 2, that the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) will be up after patching all the structural issues that stymied its scheduled launch in March 2016. The InSight launch was hampered by a serious structural problem after one of the two sensitive science instruments developed leaks. The March launch of InSight was blocked by the leaks in the vacuum-sealed instrument of the lander, named as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). As a prime instrument, it is an important tool in measuring tremors in the ground. NASA could not patch the leaks within the scheduled launch date and it led to another leak. According to a statement, NASA will be investing $153.8 million more to the existing $675 million budget to address the structural problems. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists are now fixing the problem ahead of the 2018 launch, according to Space magazine. The plan to defer the launch was also reported by Tech Times. Under the new schedule, the launch date will be May 5, 2018, and the landing will be on Nov. 26, 2018. NASA is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that the new launch is perfect. French space agency, the Centre National d'études Spatiales, is taking care of the key sensors of SEIS and their integration into the spacecraft, according to a report. German Aerospace Center (DLR) is looking after the heat flow properties for Insight's payload. According to a top NASA official, the InSight mission to Mars is an ambitious expedition to enhance research on the origins of Mars and is a way to attain comprehensive update on all the rocky planets including Earth. "Our robotic scientific explorers such as InSight are paving the way toward an ambitious journey to send humans to the Red Planet," said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in Washington. The data that InSight will compile on seismology and heat flow will come handy for the Mars 2020 rover mission. NASA is also mounting a helicopter-like drone for an advance survey of Mars ahead of the Mars 2020 mission. The drone will index interesting locations and help in staying off sand traps and speed up the rover's daily travel. The JPL of NASA is currently testing a full-scale prototype of the solar-powered helicopter, according to sources. "We're going to put it in a chamber and simulate, exactly, the Mars atmosphere," Charles Elachi who is Director of NASA's JPL told Space News. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | November 5, 2015
The InSight lander of NASA is set to venture to Mars next spring – and answer the question of what can be found behind the mysterious red surface – as the first robot geophysics mission to the planet. The InSight lander, the space agency’s first robot geophysicist, is poised to gather as much information on Mars’ interior while staying safely at the surface. Its range of geophysical tools includes a deep probe that will penetrate further below the surface than any other robot on Mars previously attempted. “The lander has been fully assembled and is in its testing phase. We have finished all the major environments tests and are currently working through operational testing,” reported William Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA. The lander will blast out of California on March 2016. Provided it leaves Earth before the launch window ends on Mar. 30, it will descend on the red planet six months later and will set up in Elysium Planitia, a smooth and flat terrain selected for being the largest friendly landscape in the area. InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigation, Geodesy and Heat Transport) will also deploy two probes: a seismic station sitting on the surface and then a heat flow probe that will drill up to 16 feet into the ground. Details hoped to be obtained from the mission include data on the thickness of the crust, the mantle’s composition, the state of the planet’s core, as well as any level of tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate based on the seismic station. All these are a first actual look at Mars, away from the usual indirect observations and guesses. The mission, expected to produce more than 26 gigabytes of data annually, is also expected to monitor the radio signal of the lander for measuring wobbles in Mars’ rotation to know if it has a liquid or solid core, as well as utilize cameras, environmental sensors and tools for gauging magnetic field fluctuations. “InSight will delve deep beneath the surface … measuring the planet’s ‘vital signs’: its ‘pulse’ (seismology), ‘temperature’ (heat flow probe) and ‘reflexes’ (precision tracking),” the mission website stated. “InSight seeks to answer one of science’s most fundamental questions: How did the terrestrial planets form?” The InSight mission is the 12th of the space agency’s Discovery-class missions, one of the 28 proposed in 2010 costing about $425 million exclusive of launch. Its two competitors included a mission to a comet and to Saturn’s moon Titan.
News Article | March 11, 2016
NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018.
News Article | August 21, 2015
NASA can't take regular citizens to Mars, but it can take their names there. NASA will send your name to Mars on a microchip, as long as people sign up on its website before the midnight deadline on Sept. 8. As of Friday morning, Aug. 21, NASA's website counted upward of 169,000 InSight boarding passes submitted and that number will likely grow, given this unique opportunity. Users are simply asked to sign up with some of their basic information before they're presented with a space-age boarding pass, which inlcudes a frequent flyer number, and additional details such as the date of the scheduled launch, the launch's location and the arrival site. The names will be sent to Mars via NASA's InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) technology. The scheduled launch date of the Atlas V 401 rocket currently stands as March 4, 2016, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. According to the generated boarding pass, upon signing up, the destination is listed as "Elysium Planitia, 'Plain of Ideal Happiness,' Mars." NASA has sent names to Mars before, not that it should discourage another group of users wanting to send their names to the fourth planet from the sun. Away from the fun stuff, NASA countered an Internet rumor Aug. 19 about an asteroid hitting the Earth between Sept. 15 - Sept. 28, saying there's no such evidence of that seemingly catastrophic event happening. "There is no scientific basis—not one shred of evidence—that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a press release statement. And the mission to Mars continues without any disruption.
News Article | December 18, 2015
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built and tested the spacecraft and delivered it on Dec. 16 from Buckley Air Force Base in Denver to Vandenberg, on the central California Coast. Preparations are on a tight schedule for launch during the period March 4 through March 30. The work ahead includes installation and testing of one of the mission's key science instruments, its seismometer, which is scheduled for delivery to Vandenberg in January. "InSight has traveled the first leg of its journey, getting from Colorado to California, and we're on track to start the next leg, to Mars, with a launch in March," said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The seismometer, provided by France's national space agency (CNES), includes a vacuum container around its three main sensors. Maintaining the vacuum is necessary for the instrument's extremely high sensitivity; the seismometer is capable of measuring ground motions as small as the width of an atom. A vacuum leak detected during testing of the seismometer was repaired last week in France and is undergoing further testing. InSight's heat-probe instrument from Germany's space agency (DLR), the lander's robotic arm and the rest of the payload are already installed on the spacecraft. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport, is the first Mars mission dedicated to studying the deep interior of the Red Planet. This Mars lander's findings will advance understanding about the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including Earth. One of the newest additions installed on the InSight lander is a microchip bearing the names of about 827,000 people worldwide who participated in an online "send your name to Mars" activity in August and September 2015. InSight will be the first mission to Mars ever launched from California. The mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Explore further: Proposed Mars mission has new name
News Article | March 10, 2016
In less than a week, European Space Agency's ExoMars is set to launch. It was a project originally supported by NASA but withdrawn because of budget constraints. Now, NASA announced that its InSight mission, wherein its lander was grounded just three months before launch to Mars in 2015, will make it to the Red Planet, after all. Rumors swirled that the mission could be cancelled but NASA announced that it would not be scrapped. Instead, the InSight mission, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is set to launch on May 5, 2018 with its planned landing on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018. This trails an announcement on December 2015 that the launch will not happen this year because of technical problems, including a vacuum leak in the spacecraft's primary science equipment. "The science goals of InSight are compelling, and the NASA and CNES plans to overcome the technical challenges are sound," says John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a longstanding goal of planetary scientists for decades. We're excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018," he added. The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the science instrument that experienced a technical problem in December 2015, will be rebuilt and reconstructed as well as undergo qualifications of its vacuum enclosure. This will be carried out by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboraboty (JPL). The Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology built SEIS as they received support from the European Space Agency's PRODEX program and the Swiss Space Office. The French Space Agency (CNES) is responsible for the lander's integration and testing. Regular interim reviews are scheduled to take place in the next six months to monitor the technical progress and continued feasibility. The goal of the InSight mission is to launch a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its interior. It aims to shed light on the processes that shaped and created the rocky planets of the solar system, including Earth, billions of years ago. The lander will drill deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet to detect pieces of information about the processes involved in terrestrial planet formation. It will also measure the planet's vital signs including temperature, seismology and precision tracking.