NASA’s InSight mission is the first time humanity has landed a spacecraft on Mars in almost a decade, and it seeks to understand how planets are formed.
InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, has a goal of studying the interior of Mars. This makes it the first robotic lander to ever physically study the inside of the planet.
The planets formed around 4.5 billion years ago, and the InSight mission aims to “answer key questions about the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system — Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars — more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets. InSight also measures tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars today,” according to NASA’s official overview.
This is important for humanity because it is the first time we’ve studied the core of another planet while actually being there. By starting locally in our own solar system, this gives humanity the tools necessary to better understand the formation and interiors of planets outside of our solar system.
By investigating the deep insides of Mars, InSight will help us better understand how structures formed on the planet by looking at “vital signs” such as heat flow and seismology deep below the surface.
Space travel is absolutely fascinating because of how vast the universe is. Earth is amazing, and so are the other planets ripe for habitation. There are millions of planets out there to explore, and getting missions to a planet is the first step in actually getting humans there. By launching robotic missions to planets, it helps humanity understand what is necessary to actually get to the planet and then how to survive on said planet. NASA is already planning a return to the moon as well. These two huge steps are leading humanity even closer to stepping onto Mars and beyond.
Getting humanity out into space is scary. But that shouldn’t stop the pure sense of wonder that our universe holds. By exploring local planets, we’re finally taking steps to branch ourselves out into the wider universe. Exploring the cosmos is important for humanity’s survival — around 7 billion years from now, the Sun will expand, destroying the Earth in the process and eventually collapse into a white dwarf star. Taking these first steps onto other planets is key to humanity reaching out into the stars and living far past this.