With all the news coming back from Curiosity rover since its deployment, one would get the impression that Mars is a pretty happening place. Blue sunsets, wide open vistas, tall mountains and extensive plains. All the while, our collective fascination with the planet has been growing apace. And it seems that this trend is destined to continue…
After looking at several low-cost options for their next major mission, NASA scientists decided to once again return to the Red Planet, this time to do some interior planet studies to determine whether Mars has a solid or liquid core, and determine the planet’s basic structure.
Known as the InSight lander, this mission won out over two equally enticing proposals. The first called the for the deployment of the Titan Mare Explorer (TiME), a floating high-tech buoy which would be sent to Saturn’s moon Titan. Once there, it would study the methane lakes of Titan, examining their composition and interaction with the atmosphere. Thanks to the Cassini probe, these lakes have attracted a great deal of interest of late, particularly since they may be able to support life. Understandably, many can’t wait to study them up close and see if this holds true.
The second potential mission called for the deployment of “Chopper”, a proposed Comet Hopper mission that would put a lander on comet 46P/Wirtanen where it would study the comet’s composition. This comet, which was originally discovered in 1948, belongs to the Jupiter family of comets and orbits the Solar System once every 5.4 years. Studying its make-up would go a long way to helping scientists understanding how Solar comets behave and provide clues as to the early formation of our Solar System.
But scratch those! With 2016 on the way, budget limited and Mars the happening place, InSight will be the one to go. What’s more, it’s research is likely to prove very useful in settling some ongoing arguments, not the least of which is whether Mars possesses liquid water beneath its surface. If this should prove true, it might mean terraforming could be a go sometime down the road…
People can dream! And speaking of which, check out the NASA simulation of what InSight will look like once deployed.
Source: Universe Today