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Inside Mars: What will we uncover beneath the Red Planet's surface? © Andy Potts, NASA

Inside Mars

Published: 14th November, 2018 at 00:00
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What will we uncover beneath the Red Planet's surface?

Issue #329 of BBC Focus on sale 14 November 2018


The Red Planet is about to get a new resident robot: the Mars InSight lander. InSight doesn’t have wheels like Opportunity or Spirit, but when it touches down on Elysium Planitia on 26 November, it will show us a place that’s never been explored before: subterranean Mars.

Relatively little is known about what goes on beneath the Red Planet’s rocky ranges. But we do know one thing: the planet rumbles. These Marsquakes send vibrations coursing through the planet’s rock and InSight will be there, with some of the most delicate equipment ever launched into space, to listen to what they sound like. In a similar way to how you knock on a wall to tell if it’s hollow, the waves, recorded as seismographs along with other data, will paint a picture of what’s happening beneath Mars’s crust.

Understanding what’s going on inside the planet will tell us how it became an irradiated desert, whether or not life could be responsible for all the methane in its atmosphere, and whether Marsquakes might be something a future manned mission to Mars will have to worry about.

Read the whole story in the latest issue of BBC Focus magazine. Before then, it’s got to reach the surface in one piece. It’ll be one hell of a ride, so make sure you follow @NASAInSight to keep track of the mission and @sciencefocus for more on its findings.


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