NASA/JPL-Caltech artist's rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars.
NASA/JPL-Caltech artist's rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars.

InSight into Mars, with Natalie Starkey

Shown: An artist's rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
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About This Episode

If we aren’t looking for life on Mars, and we’re not sending humans to Mars, then what else is there to do? Well, on this episode of StarTalk All-Stars we find out that there’s a seismic amount of research still to be done. Cosmochemist Natalie Starkey is back alongside comic co-host Mo Welch as they welcome Farah Alibay, Systems Engineer at JPL, to discuss her current project: the Mars InSight mission. Farah gives us the scoop on what the InSight mission is all about. First, Natalie and Farah share their experiences watching the launch of InSight and explain why West Coast launches have a unique visual issue when you’re trying to follow the rocket into the sky. Explore the differences between the Curiosity rover and the InSight lander and how Curiosity might become a minor annoyance when InSight is trying to send data back to Earth. You’ll hear how InSight will land on the Martian surface and why the team chose to land InSight at Elysium Planitia. Farah tells us what instruments will be used to study the surface and core of Mars while InSight executes its mission. Discover how the InSight mission saved money by using a refurbished 20-year-old part and how they came to use it in the first place. Explore Martian plate tectonics, or lack thereof, and Natalie tells us why we can still consider Mars an “active” planet. Then, we answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about the Insight mission and Martian exploration. Investigate the difference between earthquakes and “marsquakes” and how the mechanisms that trigger these events differ. Our trio also ponders why living on Mars might not be such a good idea, and you’ll hear whom Natalie would take with her to Mars. Farah explains the work and innovation of creating CubeSats MarCO-A and B that will accompany InSight on its mission. We also discuss the challenges of rocket launches on Earth and on Mars. All that, plus, find out if the current giant dust storm on Mars is of any concern to Farah and her team as InSight inches closer and closer to its rendezvous with the Red Planet. 

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