What two planetary siblings can teach us about life

Earth Mars ComparisonMars and Earth are like two siblings who have grown apart. There was a time when their resemblance was uncanny: Both were warm, wet and shrouded in thick atmospheres. But 3 or 4 billion years ago, these two worlds took different paths.

We may soon know why they went their separate ways. NASA’s InSight spacecraft will arrive at the Red Planet on Monday, Nov. 26, and will allow scientists to compare Earth to its rusty sibling like never before.

InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) won’t be looking for life on Mars. But studying its insides – what it’s made of, how that material is layered and how much heat seeps out of it – could help scientists better understand how a planet’s starting materials make it more or less likely to support life.

“Earth and Mars were molded out of very similar stuff,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission. “Why did the finished planets turn out so differently? Our measurements will help us turn back the clock and understand what produced a verdant Earth but a desolate Mars.” [More at link]

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