On May 4, 2022, NASA’s InSight lander recorded its 1,222nd day on Mars of its mission. That was also the day its seismometer recorded a magnitude 5 quake on Mars, the most strongest quake recorded to date on any planet, NASA said in a post on the JPL website.
InSight landed on Martian soil in November 2018 and was tasked with learning more about the Red Planet’s deep interior. To do this, it uses a seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures (SEIS) that looks nothing more than a covered cake tin. Beneath the dome, wind & thermal shield, SEIS tracks all seismic activity and has cataloged more than 1,300 smaller quakes to date.
The strongest quake recorded yet
SEIS is provided by the French space agency, the Center National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and examines the changes in seismic waves as they pass through the crust, mantle and core of Mars. By studying these changes, scientists can determine the depth and composition of these layers. The learnings of Mars can then be applied to better explore other celestial bodies, such as the Moon, and even our own Earth.
Months after landing on Mars, InSight reported its first “mars quake”, seismic activity equivalent to 2.5 magnitude, here on Earth. However, scientists believe there are stronger quakes on the Red Planet and would have to wait more than 4 years to record a magnitude 5 quake earlier this month.
“Ever since we set our seismometer in December 2018, we’ve been waiting,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California”. “This quake will certainly provide a view of the planet like no other. Scientists will analyze this data to learn new things about Mars in the coming years.”
The quake broke the previous record for highest magnitude quakes achieved last month after the lander detected 2 strongest quakes of 4.2 magnitudes.
Will we see data from InSight again?
Like other NASA missions, InSight is a limited-time mission that is expected to remain operational until 2020. However, the lander has now entered the year 2 of its extended mission. and the Martian environment begins to-take a toll.
InSight’s solar panels have been experiencing problems recently, and as winter approaches to its location, sunlight will be scarce due to the increasing amount of dust on the Martian surface. Days after recording the strongest quake, InSight went into safe mode after its energy level dropped below a specified limit, NASA said in its post. Designed to protect the lander, the safe mode can-be activated again when available power decreases.