Mr. R.P. spotted this article and passed it along, and it fits with our space-focus of yesterday and today. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory plans to send a probe to Mars whose purpose is to map the insides of the planet:

JPL Readies First Mars Probe Designed to Explore the Planet's Insides

Of course, we're given the usual "this-is-all-about-pure-science" meme:

A JPL news release Wednesday said InSight will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes (quakes on Mars) to map the deep interior of the planet. These waves travel through geologic materials at different speeds and reflect off boundaries, giving scientists a glimpse of the composition and structure of the planet’s interior. They reflect the initial formation of the planet, and the resulting insights into how Mars formed should help scientists better understand how other rocky planets are created, including our own Earth.

“The inside of Mars is really a vault that’s storing all of this evidence from the early solar system,” Banerdt tells KPCC. “So, by going and mapping out the inside of Mars, we’re really kind of going back in time, like a time machine, to the earliest stages of the solar system formation so that we can actually understand how our planet got here.”

But as one might imagine, when I saw this article, my suspicion meter shot into the red zone, because besides the usual blather about "pure science" and "geological time machines" and learning "the early history of the solar system," the article said nothing whatsoever about where on the Martian surface this probe will be conducting its "pure science". NASA's own website about InSight is equally less-than-forthcoming about the mission:

About InSight's Launch

There we're told that the landing site is simply "the plains of Mars", which is about as helpful as saying that the probe will be landing somewhere in that planet's northern hemisphere. But a clue is perhaps afforded by the fact that the rocket launching the probe was constructed by two major American defense contractors, but notably, there's zero information on the probe itself:

InSight will launch from Launch Complex 3 and ride atop an Atlas V-401 rocket provided by United Launch Alliance, Centennial Colorado, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

As one can imagine, this lack of any specific information about landing area, who built the probe, plus the presence of two major American defense contractors in the mix, has me entertaining all sorts of interplanetary high octane speculations. And the "pure science" explanations are not part of my high octane speculations for the simple reason that I'm not buying them. After all, for a certain segment of this alternative research community - myself included - NASA stands for "Never A Straight Answer." My problem stems from the fact that one can find intriguing pictures both from Soviet and from American Martian probes that seem to indicate the presence of regular and repeating rectilinearity in certain places on Mars, beneath the surface. Such geometrical features can be an indicator of artificiality and therefore of intelligent origins. Indeed, the Soviets' Phobos 2 Martian probe took some rather thought-provoking images suggestive of subsurface structure (see Richard Hoagland's review of some of these suggestive pictures at Lost CIties of Barsoom). All of this is, of course, suggestive, but not compulsive. What would settle this issue is going there, and mapping such structures (if any). And that, quite frankly, is what I suspect is going on here.

But don't expect any straight answers...

See you on the flip side...


  1. If you want to rough-out core, mantle, and crust locations, accomplishing it by gravity-mapping from orbit is much more efficient. Cassini was used to coarsely-map the interior of Saturn by minutely-tracking gravity’s effect on the spacecraft. A more-detailed mapping of the interior of the Moon was done by tracking the distance between two GRAIL mini-spacecraft closely-orbiting the Moon:

    The twin GRACE satellites have done the same thing using Earth’s gravitational field this way. Indeed, the same has been done to a limited degree on Mars:
    “The map was derived using Doppler and range tracking data collected by NASA’s Deep Space Network from three NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars: Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), Mars Odyssey (ODY), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).”

    Given the above, using ONE landed seismometer for that purpose is questionable. One instrument gives a very coarse ‘picture’. That is why the Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions placed seismometers across the Moon in different locations. (These were functional until they were switched off in 1977 !)
    “The advantage of a seismic array over a seismic sensor is that by comparing data from all the sensors in the array, a great deal of information may be gleaned mathematically about the location and intensity of each tremor.”

    If you factor-in the ‘vagueness’ of landing location (Elysium Planitia), my guess would be that they are hunting for something local to the landing site. Local voids? Covered structures? They would be using the seismometer as a ‘search tool’. Mars quakes may be infrequent, so I would not be surprised if they incorporated a local ‘thumper’.

    (Lockheed and Boeing are ‘partnered’ on the United Launch Alliance monopoly. They have been using the Delta and Atlas rockets for military and governmental launches for decades. I would not read too much into them launching this seismometer package. JPL, on the other hand…)

  2. Would an orbiting probe the way to go to survey the Martain interior. What is really the real mission of this new surface vehicle and why this dumb cover story.

  3. I would think that mining Mars would in the end be more feasible than asteroid mining. It’s a big planet with relatively earth-like conditions and there are congruent plans for exploration and eventual settlement (read exploitation).

    And if Ben Rich was telling the truth, then there probably already is a DoD outpost on the planet which has been there for some time, so they would doubtless be leveraging off that with this launch, also explaining why it is so cloaked in the veil of secrecy. They might be expanding or resupplying that base or using it as the hub for some commercial exploration.

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