UBC researcher to help NASA peer deep into the centre of Mars

Aug 21, 2012

NASA has approved funding for the Mars InSight lander, a mission that will enable scientists, including UBC geophysicist Catherine Johnson, to gather the first seismic information from any planet other than Earth.

"We've all been captivated by the Mars Rover's stunning images of the surface of Mars, and this is our chance to peer into the 'hidden' processes that shaped that landscape," says Johnson, the only Canadian on the mission's scientific team.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to determine whether the is seismically active, how large its core is, and to determine why it doesn't have a magnetic field today."

The lander is scheduled to launch in 2016 and land on Mars the same year. It would bore the deepest yet into Mars – to a depth of five meters – to install heat probe instrumentation below the surface, and place seismic instrumentation on the surface.

Part of Johnson's role in the mission will be to help analyze the more than 29 Gigabytes of seismic data sent back to Earth by the lander every year. She'll also work to locate where beneath Mars's surface quakes are happening, and to determine the size and state (liquid or solid) of Mars' core.

Johnson has previously worked on understanding Mars' ancient magnetic field and its relationship to the history of the planet's volcanic activity and the atmosphere. The InSight mission will help explain why Mars, unlike Earth, no longer has a .

Johnson is currently a participating scientist on NASA's MESSENGER Discovery mission and an investigator on the OSIRIS REx New Frontiers Mission.

Led by Mars Exploration Rover project scientist Bruce Banerdt and other specialists from 's Jet Propulsion Lab, InSight's international science team includes co-investigators from the US, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The lander is similar in design to the Mars that the Phoenix mission used successfully in 2007 to study ground ice near the north pole of Mars. The re-use of this technology will lower risks for the mission and keep costs down.

It will be equipped with two science instruments that will conduct the first check-up of Mars in more than 4.5 billion years, measuring its pulse, or internal activity, its temperature, and its gravitational field.

Scientists will be able to interpret this data to understand the planet's history, its interior structure and activity, and the forces that shaped rocky planet formation in the inner solar system.

Explore further: Memory reformat planned for Opportunity Mars rover

More information: InSight Mission Website insight.jpl.nasa.gov

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

U of A device to measure wind on Mars

May 27, 2008

University of Alberta scientist Carlos Lange is thrilled that an instrument he invented, a wind sensor called the Telltale, has successfully landed on Mars.

New views show old NASA Mars landers

Feb 09, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded a scene on Jan. 29, 2012, that includes the first color image from orbit showing ...

Phoenix Sees the Colors of Mars

May 28, 2008

The northern polar plains of Mars can be seen in approximate true color in this image taken by NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander.

Recommended for you

Caterpillar comet poses for pictures en route to Mars

2 hours ago

Now that's pure gorgeous. As Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring sidles towards its October 19th encounter with Mars, it's passing a trio of sumptuous deep sky objects near the south celestial pole this week. ...

Hoisting a telescope with helium

3 hours ago

Many a child has forgotten to hold tight to the string of a helium balloon only to have it escape and rise until it disappeared in the glare of the sun. Helium balloons want to rise, but launching a balloon ...

User comments : 0