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Taking Mars' pulse at ETH Zurich?

NASA's unmanned InSight mission will make this possible by landing geophysical instruments on the surface of the Red Planet, allowing us to explore its interior. The instruments on board will include a seismometer to record marsquakes and meteorite impacts. Several groups at ETH Zurich are responsible for the sensor's data acquisition and control electronics and will evaluate and interpret the acquired data.



Martian crust like heavy armour

A strong quake in the last year of the NASA Mars InSight mission, enabled researchers at ETH Zurich to determine the global thickness and density of the planet's crust. On average, the Martian crust much thicker than the Earth’s or the Moon’s crust and the planet’s main source of heat is radioactive.

Find the full article here.


The NASA Mars InSight Mission - Celebration event with lectures & apéro

The ETH Mars InSight team looks back on a challenging, successful, exciting, and fun scientific journey and invites you to a festive closing event on May 9, 2023 starting from 5.15 pm. We will have talks covering the mission history, achievements, operational and scientific highlights, student experience and public outreach efforts, followed by an apéro.

For over 1400 Martian sols, NASA's InSight mission delivered data that provided unprecedented insight into the planet's interior. The mission launched in May 2018. Almost exactly five years later, we invite you to celebrate its history and scientific achievements.

InSight landed on Mars in November 2018. By February 2019, the seismometer SEIS had been placed onto the martian surface and was transmitting data to earth. The Marsquake Service (MQS) at ETH Zurich, whose preparations had begun five years earlier, could start their daily processing activities. Over the lifespan of the mission, the MQS identified and characterized more than 1,300 marsquakes, multiple meteoroid impacts, and over 10,000 dust devils. The analysis and interpretation of the data revealed secrets about the planet’s internal structure from crust to core.
Over time, dust accumulation on the solar panels reduced the power available for scientific operations. NASA officially ended the InSight mission in December 2022.
The unprecedented data set collected on Mars has already revealed much about the red planet and will stimulate decades of further investigation.

Join us in celebrating the mission’s highlights and achievements on May 9, 2023

from 5.15 p.m. - 6.30 p.m. : Lectures at C 60, NO Building
starting from 6.30 p.m. :  Apéro at the focusTerra hall (NO Building)

Please register for the apéro here.


Simon Stähler awarded the 2023 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize

ETH Zurich Earthquake scientist, Simon Stähler and colleagues were presented with the 2023 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Newcomb Cleveland Prize for their paper on "Seismic Detection of the Martian Core" published in the prestigious journal, Science.

Find the full article here.



NASA’s InSight Lander has retired

The lander’s team has tried to contact the spacecraft twice without response, leading them to conclude it has run out of energy.

NASA’s InSight mission has ended after four years of collecting unique science on Mars. Mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California were unable to contact the lander after two consecutive attempts, leading them to conclude that the spacecraft’s solar-powered batteries have run out of energy – a state engineers refer to as “dead bus.”

NASA had previously decided to declare the mission over if the lander misses two communication attempts. The agency will continue to listen for a signal from the lander, just in case, but hearing from it at this point is considered unlikely. The last time InSight communicated with Earth was Dec. 15, 2022.

“I watched the launch and landing of this mission, and while saying goodbye to a spacecraft is always sad, the fascinating science InSight conducted is cause for celebration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The seismic data alone from this Discovery Program mission offers tremendous insights not just into Mars but other rocky bodies, including Earth.”

Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, InSight set out to study the deep interior of Mars. The lander data has yielded details about Mars’ interior layers, the surprisingly variable remnants of its mostly extinct magnetic field beneath the surface, weather on this part of Mars, and lots of quake activity.

“It has been a lifetime adventure for our Swiss team, initiated already in 1997,” says Prof. Domenico Giardini, head of the Mars team at ETH Zurich. “We contributed to InSight the seismometer electronics, project management, the design and daily operation of the Marsquake Service and we finally had the chance for amazing research, we have been very lucky in our life as scientific researchers to be able to participate in a successful planetary exploration mission.”

The highly sensitive seismometer detected 1,318 marsquakes, including quakes caused by meteoroid impacts; the largest unearthed boulder-size chunks of ice late last year.

Such impacts help scientists determine the age of the planet’s surface, and data from the seismometer provides scientists a way to study the planet’s crust, mantle, and core.

“This was the first mission to explore the deep interior of another planet. We now know for example that the core is too big for our classical models, which changes the way we think about the terrestrial planets in our solar system and elsewhere in the universe”, says Simon Staehler, a Senior Scientist working in the Seismology and Geodynamics group led by Domenico Giardini at the Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich.

The seismometer was the last science instrument that remained on as dust accumulating on the lander’s solar panels gradually reduced its energy, a process that had begun before NASA extended the mission earlier this year.

“Insight has been such a huge part of our lives for the past four years” said John Clinton, Director of Seismic Networks at the Swiss Seismological Service, ETH Zurich, and head of Insight’s Marsquake Service. “Although the daily review of new data from Mars has now sadly come to an end, analysis of this amazing dataset will continue for years - we still have many outstanding puzzles to solve, and doubtless there are new discoveries to make.”

NASA InSight mission

InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is an unmanned external Nasa Mars mission. In November 2018, the stationary lander, which is equipped with a seismometer and a heat probe, safely landed on the Martian surface. The geophysical instruments on the red planet permit exploration of its interior. A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris IPGP). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA).

Author: From the editors / NASA

InSight lander

Explore the interactive graphic and learn more about the InSight lander and its instruments.


Follow the NASA InSight mission on Twitter! @NASAInSight