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Insight On InSight

NASA's latest mission is justified despite the price tag.

NASA's latest mission is justified despite the price tag.

NASA

NASA's latest mission is justified despite the price tag.

NASA

NASA

NASA's latest mission is justified despite the price tag.

Sam Shepard, Staff Writer

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The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) made history by conducting the eighth successful landing of a spacecraft on the planet Mars on Nov. 26. The new Martian resident is called InSight, or the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

This spacecraft traveled 300 million miles to Mars with the mission to probe and map the planet’s interior. From its crust to its core, InSight seeks to unlock the secrets of Mars’ formation and the formation of the other rocky planets in our solar system, Earth included. The InSight craft itself is planned to operate for two years. The analysis of the data will take far longer than that.

If any of the four terrestrial planets would do, why Mars? Why not Venus?

The Soviet Union already tried that, but Venus is known as Earth’s sister from Hell. The Soviet Union sent many space crafts to the planet, with one of the most famous being Venera 13.

Venera 13 took panoramic pictures of the Venetian surface, as well as analyzed soil samples. But due to the nightmare conditions on Venus, the probe lasted two hours and seven minutes before it was destroyed. Landing a probe on Venus for a number of years to probe its interior is not a wise option. Mars is the most stable choice despite its planet-wide dust storms.

The question for the average citizen, though, is why spend millions of dollars in designing and building InSight and then launch it into outer space? What reward is there to taxpayers for funding InSight? The answer is that there are numerous benefits.

Certainly, the knowledge gained from InSight will answer many questions held by the scientific community. How did the terrestrial planets form in the early solar system? What was the early solar system like? There are theories as to how the Solar System formed, but they are lacking in data. Data from InSight aims to fix that disparity.

Pertaining to Mars, InSight’s mission could provide answers as to how and why Mars became the dead planet it is today. Answering these questions would further our understanding of how our world came to be and how the universe is put together.

There are more practical benefits to the average citizen. Many of the technologies we take for granted today were originally designed for space exploration. The synthetic material found in sneakers was designed for NASA missions. The light sensor in the cameras of our smartphones was also a NASA invention.

On the subject of phones, the flexible circuit board found in nearly all modern-day computers was, you guessed it, designed for NASA and the military.

NASA technology has always filtered its way into the ordinary citizen’s hands. Funding these missions not only furthers our scientific knowledge, but the technology used to produce these cutting-edge machines also helps the average citizen.

Space is the final frontier. The knowledge we gain from exploring it will benefit our civilization and every person living in it.

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