Maybe you listen to space podcasts, but you’ve probably never heard one literally this far out.
NASA just launched a podcast headed to Mars. Really. So it isn’t a podcast starring humans headed to Mars, but the space agency's InSight Lander as it makes the treacherous journey, discussed by humans. The “On a Mission” podcast will also be the first one that will track a mission in flight as the InSight team at the JPL Laboratory in Pasadena, California, speak for InSight and everything it encounters on the way to the Red Planet.
While Mars seems to be in the media every other nanosecond, fewer than half of Mars missions actually reach their destination.
"When things go beautifully it looks easy, but it's really not easy," said InSight mission deputy principal investigator Sue Smrekar, "Any kind of exploration is just not easy or guaranteed — ever."
If InSight comes out of this alive, it will be the first robotic explorer ever to study the crust, mantle, and core of Mars, or its “inner space” (meaning planetary innards), to understand how the rocky planets in our inner solar system came into being. That will also shed light on the birth of Mercury, Venus, and our home turf.
It’s kind of like giving the planet a medical checkup. You can only find out so much by examining the red dust; to really investigate, you’re going to need blood tests and other minimally invasive procedures. The only difference is that InSight is putting a probe into Mars not to extract blood, but to get a feel for what has been going on inside the planet in the last 4 billion years.
“On a Mission” is hosted by science journalist Leslie Mullen and also narrated by members of the InSight team to bring the journey of the lander itself — and the NASA brains who spent years making it a reality — down to Earth. It looks at the mission in a way that merges the scientific aspects with both the tension and elation involved in such a high-profile mission. Expect weekly 20-to-30-minute episodes as InSight approaches Mars, trekking over 300 million miles at 13,000 miles per hour until it touches down on Nov. 26.
InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is an arm of NASA’s Discovery Program. Discovery zeroes in on missions that seek to illuminate the mysteries in our solar system. Next to virtually going back billions of years to discover how Mars and its rocky brethren formed, the lander will also find out how often meteorites collide with Mars, as well as the planet’s level of tectonic activity.