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InSight on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's InSight lander on Mars felt two relatively large quakes shake the Red Planet last month.

Why it matters: InSight uses these shakes on Mars — caused by volcanic activity — to learn more about the interior of the planet.

What they found: The two quakes, which were felt on March 7 and March 18, were magnitudes 3.3 and 3.1.

  • "It’s wonderful to once again observe marsquakes after a long period of recording wind noise," John Clinton, an InSight scientist, said in a statement. "One Martian year on, we are now much faster at characterizing seismic activity on the Red Planet."
  • The quakes seemed to come from a region called Cerberus Fossae, the same area where two other strong shakes were felt earlier in the mission.
  • The waves from all four of those relatively strong quakes traveled like quakes do on Earth — through the planet. Other shakes on Mars have been more like those seen on the Moon, which are more "scattered," according to NASA.

What's next: NASA extended InSight's mission on Mars by two years, to at least December 2022.

  • The lander will continue to listen for shakes on the planet, but the spacecraft's solar panels are covered in dust and its power is low, according to NASA.
  • The agency expects power levels to bounce back once the planet comes back toward the Sun, after July, but for now, mission managers are going to turn instruments off as needed to allow the lander to hibernate.
  • "The team hopes to keep the seismometer on for another month or two before it has to be temporarily turned off," NASA said in the statement.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Apr 3, 2021 - Science

Companies race to design private space stations before ISS goes offline

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies are rapidly designing private space stations that could one day dominate operations in orbit around Earth.

Why it matters: NASA is hoping private industry will start to take over operations in low-Earth orbit once the International Space Station comes to an end, creating a robust commercial market in that part of space.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.