When NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (Insight) lander set down on Mars in November of 2018, it began its two-year primary mission of studying Mars’ seismology and interior environment.
And now, just over a year and a half later, the results of the lander’s first twelve months on the Martian surface have been released in a series of studies.
One of these studies, which was recently published in the journal Nature Geosciences, shared some rather interesting finds about magnetic fields on Mars.
According to the research team behind it, the magnetic field within the crater where InSight’s landed is ten times stronger than expected. These findings could help scientists resolve key mysteries about Mars’ formation and subsequent evolution.
These readings were obtained by InSight’s magnetic sensor, which studied the magnetic fields within the mission’s landing zone. This shallow crater, known as “Homestead hollow”, is located in the region called Elysium Planitia – a flat-smooth plain just north of the equator.
This region was selected because it has the right combination of flat topology, low elevation, and low debris to allow InSight to probe deep into the interior of Mars.
Prior to this mission, the best estimates of Martian magnetic fields came from satellites in orbit and were averaged over distances of more than 150 kilometres (93 miles).
Catherine Johnson, a professor of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia and a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute (PSI), was the lead author on the study. As she said in a recent UBC News story:
“One of the big unknowns from previous satellite missions was what the magnetization looked like over small areas. By placing the first magnetic sensor at the surface, we have gained valuable new clues about the interior structure and upper atmosphere of Mars that will help us understand how it – and other planets like it – formed.”
“The ground-level data give us a much more sensitive picture of magnetization over smaller areas, and where it’s coming from. In addition to showing that the magnetic field at the landing site was ten times stronger than the satellites anticipated, the data implied it was coming from nearby sources.”
Measuring magnetic fields on Mars is key to understanding the nature and strength of the global magnetic field (aka magnetosphere) that Mars had billions of years ago.
The presence of this magnetosphere has been inferred from the presence of magnetized rocks on the planet’s surface, leading to localized and relatively weak magnetic fields.
According to data gathered by MAVEN and other missions, scientists predict that roughly 4.2 billion years ago, this magnetic field suddenly ‘switched off’. This resulted in solar wind slowly stripping the Martian atmosphere away over the next few hundred million years, which is what led to the surface becoming the dry and desiccated place it is today.
Because most rocks on the surface of Mars are too young to have been magnetized by this ancient field, the team thinks it must be coming from deeper underground.
As Johnson explained:
“We think it’s coming from much older rocks that are buried anywhere from a couple hundred feet to ten kilometers below ground. We wouldn’t have been able to deduce this without the magnetic data and the geology and seismic information InSight has provided.”
By combining InSight data with magnetic readings obtained by Martian orbiters in the past, Johnson and her colleagues hope to be able to identify exactly which rocks are magnetized and how old they are.
These efforts will be bolstered by future missions to study Martian rocks, such as NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, the ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover, and China’s Huoxing-1 (HX-1) mission – all of which are scheduled to launch this summer.
InSight’s magnetometer also managed to gather data on phenomena that exist high in Mars’ upper atmosphere as well as the space environment surrounding the planet.
Like Earth, Mars is exposed to solar wind, the stream of charged particles that emanate from the Sun and carry its magnetic field into interplanetary space – hence the name interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).
But since Mars lacks a magnetosphere, it is less protected from solar wind and weather events. This allows the lander to study the effects of both on the surface of the planet, which scientists have been unable to do until now.
“Because all of our previous observations of Mars have been from the top of its atmosphere or even higher altitudes, we didn’t know whether disturbances in solar wind would propagate to the surface. That’s an important thing to understand for future astronaut missions to Mars.”
Another interesting find was the way the local magnetic field fluctuated between day and night, not to mention the short pulsations that occurred around midnight and lasted for just a few minutes. Johnson and her colleagues theorize that these are caused by interactions between solar radiation, the IMF, and particles in the upper atmosphere to produce electrical currents (and hence, magnetic fields).
These readings confirm that events taking place in and above Mars’ upper atmosphere can be detected at the surface. They also provide an indirect picture of the planet’s atmospheric properties, like how charged it becomes and what currents exist in the upper atmosphere.
As for the mysterious pulses, Johnson and her team are not sure what causes them but think that they are also related to how solar wind interacts with Mars.
In the future, the InSight team hopes that their efforts to gather data on the surface magnetic field will coincide with the MAVEN orbiter passing overhead, which will allow them to compare data.
As InSight’s principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, summarized:
The main function of the magnetic sensor was to weed out magnetic ‘noise,’ both from the environment and the lander itself, for our seismic experiments, so this is all bonus information that directly supports the overarching goals of the mission. The time-varying fields, for example, will be very useful for future studies of the deep conductivity structure of Mars, which is related to its internal temperature.”
This study is one of six that resulted from InSight’s first year of mission data, which can be accessed here. However, this is just the beginning for the InSight mission, which will wrap up its two-year primary mission towards the end of 2020.
Of particular interest are the X-band radio measurements that will show how much Mars’ “wobbles” as it spins on its axis, which in turn will help reveal the true nature of the planet’s core (solid or liquid?).
Exciting times lie ahead for the many missions we have (or will be sending) to Mars! Be sure to check out this video of the InSight mission too, courtesy of NASA JPL:
SpaceX launch: live stream, liftoff video replay, and what's happening now – TechRadar India
3pm EDT SpaceX update: New SpaceX launch video and video replays have been added embedded via YouTube and Twitter below, so you can rewatch the highlights, from liftoff on the Dragon Endeavor to docking with the International Space Station. Next up is a post-arrival news conference at the Johnson Space Center at 3:15pm EDT.
1:47pm EDT update: The live stream video just showed the Dragon Endeavor crew being greeted by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, US Senator Ted Cruz, and US Representative Brian Babin on a video call from Mission Control in Houston, Texas.
1:30pm EDT update: The two NASA astronauts who went up on the SpaceX Dragon capsule yesterday have joined three other astronauts on the ISS (International Space Station): American Chris Cassidy and Russians Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
1pmEDT update: The hatch is now open (as of 1:02pm EDT on March 31), meaning the hatch between the SpaceX Dragon capsule and the ISS is open and the two NASA astronauts can float through the International Space Station.
The live stream continues below via a YouTube video, and it’s happening after the two astronauts established pressure equalization in SpaceX Dragon capsule.
The SpaceX hatch is opening a little more than two hours after docking with the ISS. The SpaceX Dragon docking with the ISS was a success and happened autonomously, at first with a soft capture, then there were 12 latches around the docking ring that created a pressure-tight seal. An umbilical cord was then deployed to link the SpaceX Dragon and the ISS to share power and data – think of it has a giant USB-C cable in space.
It took a total of 19 hours for the SpaceX Dragon capsule to navigate to the ISS for docking on Sunday, following a successful SpaceX launch live stream. You can see a video replay of the liftoff below, along with four other can’t-miss highlight videos.
SpaceX live stream video
Here’s where you’re able to watch the NASA astronauts float around in space board the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The live stream commentary has been brilliant, insightful and inspiring regarding the future of commercial space travel.
SpaceX video: see the NASA astronauts arrive at ISS
For the first time, NASA astronauts arrived at the International Space Station from a commercially-made spacecraft. Watch Doug and Bob join three other astronauts from the Dragon Endeavor (what they named their capsule after the launch).
This is the first time in human history @NASA_Astronauts have entered the @Space_Station from a commercially-made spacecraft. @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug have finally arrived to the orbiting laboratory in @SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. pic.twitter.com/3t9Ogtpik4May 31, 2020
SpaceX hatch opening video replay
The SpaceX hatch opened at 12:45pm EDT, a little more than two hours after the Dragon capsule first linked up with the ISS. NASA astronauts equalized the pressure between the two spacecrafts so that they could move to the ISS.
They made it. After launching from @NASAKennedy on the @SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft yesterday, @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug have officially joined the @Space_Station crew today at 1:02pm ET — making history in the process. pic.twitter.com/A7oExw0SlDMay 31, 2020
SpaceX docking with ISS video replay
You can see the ISS docking in this video below. It shows the SpaceX Dragon and ISS linking up in what’s called a ‘soft capture’. It happened autonomously, and then a set a 12 latches or hooks create a pressurized seal so that the two crafts orbit together.
This particular SpaceX video is of the more visually-pleasing soft capture (there’s no good video vantage point for the more internalized hard capture with latches).
Docking confirmed – Crew Dragon has arrived at the @space_station! pic.twitter.com/KiKBpZ8R2HMay 31, 2020
SpaceX toy dinosaur floating in zero gravity
You can’t buy the “Ty Flippable Tremor The Aqua/Pink Sequin Dinosaur” on Amazon anymore. It’s sold out after it was seen floating in space. The NASA astronauts took it onboard for their kids to see it experience zero gravity.
Two humans (and one dinosaur) went to space today #SpaceX pic.twitter.com/U4CbHJShkwMay 30, 2020
Best SpaceX video replays
All of the important SpaceX video replays are below, from launch to right now.
Both SpaceX and NASA are providing a bunch of footage – both live video and video replays – to capture this space mission. Here are the best videos to check out.
1. SpaceX launch video replay – see the liftoff again
Liftoff happened at 3:22pm EDT Saturday, and it was spectacular, especially after a nine-year hiatus for NASA launches on US soil. You can rewatch the launch again.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/DRBfdUM7JAMay 30, 2020
2. SpaceX Falcon 9 booster returns to Earth
Just beyond the T-0 countdown, we saw the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster return to Earth – and land successfully. Having a reusable rocket is a huge milestone for the future of space travel when it comes to cost.
Commentators on the SpaceX live stream compared the Space Shuttle era rockets falling into the ocean (and being scrapped) as throwing away an airplane engine every time a plane pulled into an airport gate. It’s a great analogy to explain why what SpaceX pulled off on Saturday was a huge deal for space exploration.
Falcon 9 booster has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship! pic.twitter.com/96Nd3vsrT2May 30, 2020
3. Falcon 9 second stage separates from Dragon capsule
Here’s some great footage of the Falcon 9 second stage rocket separating from the Dragon Capsule and falling back to Earth.
Crew Dragon has separated from Falcon 9’s second stage and is on its way to the International Space Station with @Astro_Behnken and @AstroDoug! Autonomous docking at the @Space_Station will occur at ~10:30 a.m. EDT tomorrow, May 31 pic.twitter.com/bSZ6yZP2bDMay 30, 2020
4. NASA astronauts’ first video transmission
Right now, NASA astronauts are above Earth in the SpaceX-made Dragon capsule as you read this (they’ll be up there for 19 hours), and they’re wearing SpaceX-designed spacesuits. The US government’s Space Shuttle program ended nine years ago and the private SpaceX has picked up where NASA left off. It’s a giant step for space exploration.
Amazing. 🚀 https://t.co/hamiC8PDqZMay 30, 2020
5. Live views of the SpaceX Dragon orbiting the Earth
The SpaceX cameras were able to capture some amazing live views of Earth as the Dragon capsule orbited the planet on its way to dock with the ISS. Here’s a short clip of exactly that.
Tune in to hear @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug on Crew Dragon and for live views of Earth → https://t.co/bJFjLCzWdK pic.twitter.com/P5nxAyAJFnMay 31, 2020
The first hours of Saturday’s SpaceX livestream felt like deja vu if you watched the SpaceX live stream Wednesday. But unlike that first launch attempt, Saturday’s launch countdown didn’t stop at T-minus 17 minutes. Instead, history was made.
It wasn’t always clear that Saturday’s launch would happen, even minutes before the launch window. “We are predicting a 50/50 shot of going this time,” said NASA administrator NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine at the top of the SpaceX live stream. “But given the fact that we are in late May – in Florida – we have to take every shot that we can get.” They’re glad that they did, despite the gloomy forecast.
Saturday’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission was a delayed and a second attempt, but it was always going to be historic, as it’s happening at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s the first such launch on US soil in nearly a decade – since NASA retired the Space Shuttle nine years ago. It’s also the first time that a SpaceX reusable spacecraft has sent NASA astronauts into space. It’s the birth of commercially-backed human space travel.
The destination of this SpaceX launch is the International Space Station (ISS) for a one- to four-month duration for NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, according to our friends over at Space.com.
SpaceX launch – as it happened on Saturday, May 30
The official Demo-2 SpaceX launch time, Saturday, May 30 at 3:22pm EDT, so the times across the continental US were 2:22pm CDT / 1:22pm MDT / 12:22pm PDT.
The UK SpaceX launch time was 20:22 BST. In addition to tuning into the video live stream, you were able to go outside soon afterward and maybe catch a glimpse of the SpaceX-built spacecraft in the night sky at around 20:40 BST.
In Australia, it was already Sunday morning, with the new launch time occurring at 5:22am AEST.
SpaceX launch weather concerns subsided
Up until the last few minutes of Saturday’s SpaceX launch, weather was a concern. It wouldn’t have been time, as we saw this play out on Wednesday: “The weather got us,” admitted NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a somber 30-second Twitter video on Wednesday. “I know there was a lot of disappointment today.”
Bridenstine went on to explain the reasoning behind what we all saw: the SpaceX launch was scrubbed just 17 minutes inside the launch window, with NASA hanging on until the last minutes in an effort to save its efforts. The weather didn’t cooperate.
NASA has strict weather rules for clearing spacecraft launches and noted that three weather violations existed, including the chance of the craft triggering ‘natural lightning’. If they would have been able to wait ten minutes beyond the countdown, they could have cleared those three violations, according to SpaceX and NASA officials.
Waiting even ten minutes wasn’t an option, though. Both Saturday’s successful launch and Wednesday’s scrubbed launch had what’s known as an ‘instantaneous launch window’, meaning due orbital mechanics a delay wasn’t possible if the crew wanted to get to the International Space Station (ISS) on time and lock in accurately. Blame Newtown’s law of universal gravity, if you’d like.
The good news is that everything technical with the SpaceX craft and NASA crew was ‘go for liftoff’ on both days when the hatch door successfully closed. Weather was the only concern, according to NASA during the live streams.
Even with all of the exceptional planning ahead of this SpaceX launch, NASA and SpaceX can’t control the weather (not yet anyway). Florida, while normally sunny, does have frequent quick-moving thunderstorms (anyone who has ever visited nearby Disney World knows that), and that’s what the crew faced Wednesday and most of Saturday until the final half-hour.
.@AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug arrive at historic Launch Complex 39A → https://t.co/bJFjLCzWdK pic.twitter.com/EZATwbKWfAMay 30, 2020
Another weather variable is the fact that the weather conditions need to be good everywhere this spacecraft might be. For example, if the crew had to abort anywhere along their ascent and come down, recovery crews would need to access the capsule, so it’s more than just the immediate Florida launchpad that needs ideal weather.
What happened before the SpaceX launch
The live stream saw SpaceX founder Elon Musk visit suited-up astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken and exchange a few words before liftoff time. Sadly, there was no audio during this portion of the live stream on Wednesday.
Musk then greeted US Vice President Mike Pence, who is there to watch the launch, while President Donald Trump joined soon after. Hurley and Behnken traveled to the launch site in a Tesla Model X (Tesla being another company Musk founded). Both the President and Vice President returned to see the launch Saturday.
The moment @SpaceX founder @elonmusk gives NASA’s @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug the keys to the Dragon 2. #SpaceLaunchLIVE #SpaceXDragon pic.twitter.com/nHb1uCVR9uMay 27, 2020
NASA continued to monitor the weather via data sensors around the launch site in an effort to get everything into ‘the green position’ on their maps. At the time, NASA said, “the weather is trending in the right direction,” but as the countdown got to T-minus 17 minutes, favorability went the other direction.
This meant that the crew was seated in the capsule after crossing the crew access arm, and the crew arm had already retracted. Steam started to come off of the rocket before the launch was called off. It was that close to liftoff.
SpaceX spacecraft, SpaceX suits and NASA astronauts
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are inside the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which sat atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for liftoff. It was situated on a launch pad at legendary Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
LC-39A was originally built for the Apollo missions and remodeled for the Space Shuttle program. Now it’s home to the first space flight to send astronauts into space using a private aerospace company.
Hurley (the spacecraft commander) and Behnken (the joint operations commander) are NASA astronauts, engineers and both former members of US military (Hurley is a former marine, while Behnken was in the US Air Force).
The two-man NASA crew are not only be flying in a SpaceX-built spacecraft, but also outfitted in SpaceX pressurized suits, first shown off in 2017.
Meet Bob And Doug – Best Friends On Historic SpaceX-NASA Mission – NDTV
Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the astronauts set to launch into orbit on a SpaceX rocket Wednesday, are both former military pilots, both recruited by NASA in 2000, and both married to fellow astronauts.
With their crew cuts, cool demeanor, short and precise sentences, they have all the traditional hallmarks of the men of NASA.
Smiling, reasonable, competent, reliable: in other words “The Right Stuff” of the early era of spaceflight.
They met in 2000 when they began their training at the space agency, and have been best friends ever since, said Hurley, 53.
Both of them attended military test pilot school, a well worn path to the astronaut corps.
Behnken, 49, holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
He signed up for the military during his studies and attended the elite Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
A colonel, he’s flown more than 25 different aircraft, including the F-22 fighter.
Hurley was also a colonel and before joining NASA was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the Marine Corps, a specialist for the F/A~CHECK~18.
Between 2008 and 2011, they both flew two missions, separately, on the Space Shuttle.
In 2015, NASA assigned them their next mission: the first crewed flight of the Crew Dragon, built by SpaceX and initially planned for 2017.
– Dream mission –
“If you gave us one thing that we could have put on our list of dream jobs that we would have gotten to have some day, it would have been to be aboard a new spacecraft and conduct a test mission,” Behnken told reporters when he arrived at the Kennedy Space Center from Houston last week.
It was through the astronaut corps that each of them met their wives, who have also space missions to their credit.
Behnken married Megan McArthur, and they have a six-year-old boy, Theodore.
Doug married Karen Nyberg, and they too have a son, Jack, aged 10.
The bond of friendship that unites the two men is an obvious asset for such a risky mission, where they each might have to take control of the spacecraft that is set to auto pilot by default.
Hurley is the more meticulous, even obsessive, of the two, said Behnken.
“If we have to get useless information, Doug is always the repository for that,” joked Behnken in a video released by NASA.
Hurley himself admitted to being an expert in “obscure procedures.”
As for Behnken, Hurley said his friend thinks of everything ahead of time. “He’s already got it all figured out.”
But he’s no good at bluffing and “doesn’t have a good poker face,” added Hurley.
On Monday, the head of NASA texted the pair to ask one last time: are you sure you want to go ahead?
“They both came back and they said, ‘we’re go for launch,'” said Jim Bridenstine. “So they’re ready to go.”
It’s a moment they’ve been training for the past five years.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
SpaceX and NASA make history with launch – CNN International
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