Like a bruised peach sliced apart to reveal an enormous yellow pit, Mars shares its inner mysteries in the first-ever map of an alien planet’s interior — released as part of three new studies published July 22 in the journal Science.
This premiere look at the Martian interior is the culmination of two years of research (and decades of planning) with NASA’s InSight lander — a stationary science robot deployed to Mars in 2018 with the sole mission of studying the Red Planet’s unseen innards. About a month after landing on the flat, smooth plain known as Elysium Planitia, InSight used its robotic arm to install a tiny seismometer on the nearby Martian surface, and began listening for marsquakes — seismic vibrations within the planet, similar to earthquakes on Earth.
“Unlike Earth, Mars has no tectonic plates; its crust is instead like one giant plate,” NASA researchers wrote in a statement. “But faults, or rock fractures, still form in the Martian crust due to stresses caused by the slight shrinking of the planet as it continues to cool.”