NASA’s InSight Mission findings of Mars

It’s now more than a year since NASA’s InSight lander mission touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018, owing to this NASA has published a set of six papers to reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses.

About InSight Mission:

  • InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a NASA Discovery Program mission that will place a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior for two years. 

NASA’s Discovery Program:

  • Discovery is an ongoing program that offers the scientific community the opportunity to assemble a team and design exciting, focused investigations that complement NASA's larger planetary science explorations
  • The goal is to achieve outstanding results launching many smaller missions using fewer resources and shorter development times than past projects with comparable objectives. 
  • The main objective is to enhance our understanding of the Solar System by exploring the planets, their moons, and small bodies such as comets and asteroids
  • But InSight is more than a Mars mission - it is a terrestrial planet explorer that will address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science - understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.
  • By using sophisticated geophysical instruments, InSight will delve deep beneath the surface of Mars, detecting the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet's "vital signs": Its "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (heat flow probe), and "reflexes" (precision tracking).
  • It is being supported by a number of European partners, which include France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA).


  • Underground: rumbles

    • Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth, but it does have volcanically active regions that can cause rumbles. The mission has received more than 450 seismic signals to date, the majority of which are believed to quake (as opposed to data noise created by environmental factors, like wind). 
    • The largest quake was just about magnitude 4.0 in size.
  • The surface: magnetism

    • Billions of years ago, Mars had a magnetic field. Although it is no longer present, it left behind what NASA describes as “ghosts” – magnetized rocks that are now between 61 m to several km below ground. 
    • InSight is equipped with a magnetometer, which has detected magnetic signals.
    • At a Martian site called Homestead hollow, the magnetic signals are 10 times stronger than what was predicted earlier (based on data from orbiting spacecraft). Because InSight’s measurements are more local, they are more precise.
  • In the wind: dust devils

    • InSight measures wind speed, direction, and air pressure nearly continuously.
    • Weather sensors have detected thousands of passing whirlwinds, which are called dust devils when they pick up grit and become visible. 

InSight has two radios which can reveal whether the planet’s core is solid or liquid. A solid core would cause Mars to wobble less than a liquid one would. This first year of data is just a start. When it is two years on Earth, Mars will have completed one year. A full Martian year will give scientists a much better idea of the size and speed of the planet’s wobble.

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Haryana’s Harappan site of Rakhigarhi

The Centre is moving ahead with its plan to develop Rakhigarhi as a tourist hub and set up a museum that has made residents in two villages in Haryana’s Hisar district — Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur a bit worried.


  • As per the Union Budget 2020-21 all five archaeological sites – Rakhigarhi, Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shivsagar in Assam, Dholavira in Gujarat and Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu – would be developed into “iconic sites”.
  • The move would help in better preservation of sites, unravel new historical findings and generate employment for the local youth.
  • However, the villagers would lose their land owing to which adequate and timely compensation is desired by them.
  • The ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) has been able to get under its control just 83.5 acres of the 350-hectare site that spans 11 mounds, after first taking over the site in 1996, due to encroachments and pending court cases

About Rakhigarhi:

  • RakhiGarhi (Rakhi Shahpur + Rakhi Khas), is a village in Hisar District in the state of Haryana in India, situated 150 kilometers to the northwest of Delhi. 
  • The Archaeological remains were first found in 1963 at Rakhigarhi however the first major excavation at Rakhigarhi was carried out for three winters in 1997-1999.
  • It is the site of a pre-Indus Valley Civilisation settlement going back to about 6500 BCE.
  • Later, it was also part of the mature Indus Valley Civilisation, dating to 2600-1900 BCE.
  • Among the findings, which indicate both early and mature Harappan phases, were a 4,600-year-old female skeleton, fortification, and bricks.
  • The site is located some 27 km from the seasonal Ghaggar river
  • In May 2012, the Global Heritage Fund declared Rakhigarhi one of the 10 most endangered heritage sites in Asia.

About Indus Valley Civilisation:

  • The History of India begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization, more precisely known as Harappan Civilization
  • It flourished around 2,500 BC, in the western part of South Asia, what today is Pakistan and Western India. 
  • The Indus Valley was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and China. 
  • Nothing was known about this civilization till the 1920s when the Archaeological Department of India carried out excavations in the Indus valley wherein the ruins of the two old cities, viz. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were unearthed. 
  • The ruins of buildings and other things like household articles, weapons of war, gold and silver ornaments, seals, toys, pottery wares, etc., show that some four to five thousand years ago a highly developed Civilization flourished in this region.
  • By 1500 BC, the Harappan culture came to an end. Among various causes ascribed to the decay of Indus Valley Civilization are the recurrent floods and other natural causes like earthquakes, etc.

Also readPrelims Corner - Blue Dot, G20, Waqf Council, UNESCO WHS

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