Equipment left over from the Mars mission for use on the Moon

Zoom / A design for NASA’s commercial lunar delivery service.

On May 5, 2022, a seismometer aboard the InSight lander recorded a 4.7-magnitude earthquake on the surface of Mars, even though the epicenter is 2,250 kilometers from the probe. It was one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on Mars and the largest recorded by the Insight mission. In September, in the first measurement of its kind, the instrument recorded an earthquake caused by a meteorite impact on Mars.

InSight’s seismometer is called the Experimental Structure Intra-Seismic (or SEIS), and it has recorded these and 20 additional peculiar earthquakes. Now, an instrument based on the same design will measure Earth’s vibrations on the far side of the Moon, the first seismometers on our neighbor since the time of Apollo.

Down to SEIS

The SEIS Wideband Seismometer (VBB) developed by the Institute of Physics in Paris (IPGP) and the French Space Agency (CNES), now on the surface of Mars, can detect the smallest motions – up to 10 picometers, which is much smaller than an atom. Consisting of three pendulums positioned at 120 degrees to each other, SEIS measures the vertical and horizontal vibrations of the Martian surface.

During the development of InSight, there was a backup model of SEIS is built. Now, VBB of this spare will be part of the Farside Seismic Suite that will be deployed to the moon in 2025 as part of NASA’s commercial lunar payload services. a program. It is one of two seismometers that will operate on the far side of the Moon in an impact crater called the Schrödinger Basin. Another seismometer would be a short duration sensor.

According to Gabriel Pont, Earthquake wing on the other side Project manager at CNES, the instrument on the moon will have only one wide pendulum that will measure vertical ground vibrations. The short period sensor will handle measurements in other directions.

The new environment requires minor changes. “We used a backup template for the SEIS tool. Earthquake wing on the other side The seismometer will be adjusted for lunar gravity. “It will be placed in a vacuum protection case called seismobox,” Punt said.

Philippe Legnone of the IPGP and Paris City University, is the principal investigator for SEIS on Mars and co-principal investigator for the Broadband Sensor at Earthquake wing on the other sideThe single vertical axis sensor, he said, will be used with little modification. “Depending on the frequency, this seismometer will be comparable to or 10 times better than the Apollo seismometers,” Loggnot noted.

Lots of firsts

The Earthquake wing on the other side It will be the first time a seismometer has been placed on the lunar surface since the Apollo missions. This will be the first time the seismometer will operate on the far side of the Moon.

“authenticity Earthquake wing on the other side is that it will be independent of the probe. This is because he must live several lunar days and nights, which is not the case for the lander. The Earthquake wing on the other side It will have its own solar panels, antennas to talk to the orbiters, and its own thermal controllers,” said Pont.

According to Pont, one of the main goals of Earthquake wing on the other side It is the determination of the seismic activity and the rate of impact of micro-meteorites in the area where they land. “This could also be useful for future exploration missions, whether it’s manned or deploying a telescope on the far side of the moon,” said Pont.

“Over a long period of time, the VBB will be able to detect the interaction of seismic waves with the potentially molten deep region of the Moon. This is critical to understanding how the Moon has evolved since its formation,” added Lugnona.

The success of SEIS on Mars and its selection for the next lunar mission come after years of research and development. Lognonné recalls that the first proposal for a large-scale seismometer at the IPGP was accepted in 1993. “Since the mid-1990s, we have started developing it and have been working continuously to get it ready to fly. It took us 15 years before he was selected in early 2010 for the InSight assignment,” said Lugnoni, who has been working on the project since its inception.

Dhananjay Khadilkar is a Paris-based journalist.

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