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Mars, by virtue of its tenuous atmosphere and proximity to our solar system’s asteroid belt, is far more vulnerable than Earth to being struck by space rocks – one of the many differences between the two planetary neighbours.

Scientists are now gaining a fuller understanding of this Martian trait, with help from NASA’s robotic InSight lander. Researchers on Monday described how InSight detected seismic and acoustic waves from the impact of four meteorites and then calculated the location of the craters they left – the first such measurements anywhere other than Earth.

The researchers used observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in space to confirm the crater locations.

“These seismic measurements give us a completely new tool for investigating Mars, or any other planet we can land a seismometer on,” said planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the InSight mission’s principal investigator.

The space rocks InSight tracked – one landing in 2020 and the other three in 2021 – were relatively modest in size, estimated to weigh up to about 440 pounds (200kg), with diameters of up to about 20 inches (50cm) and leaving craters of up to about 24 feet (7.2meters) wide. They landed between 53 miles (85km) and 180 miles (290km) from InSight’s location. One exploded into at least three pieces that each gouged their own craters.

“We can connect a known source type, location and size to what the seismic signal looks like. We can apply this information to better understand InSight’s entire catalog of seismic events, and use the results on other planets and moons, too,” said Brown University planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar, a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The researchers believe that now the seismic signature of such impacts has been discovered they expect to find more contained in InSight’s data, going back to 2018.

The three-legged InSight – its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – landed in 2018 in a vast and relatively flat plain just north of the Martian equator called Elysium Planitia.

“The moon is also a target for future meteor impact detection,” said planetary scientist and study lead author Raphael Garcia of the University of Toulouse’s ISAE-SUPAERO institute of aeronautics and space.

“And it may be the same sensors will do it, because the spare sensors of InSight are currently integrated in the Farside Seismic Suite instrument for a flight to the moon in 2025,” Garcia added, referring to an instrument due to be placed near the lunar south pole on the side of the moon permanently facing away from Earth.

Mars is about twice as likely as Earth to have its atmosphere hit by a meteoroid – the name for a space rock before it strikes the surface. However, Earth has a much thicker atmosphere that protects the planet.

“So meteoroids usually break up and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere, forming fireballs that only rarely reach the surface to form a crater. In comparison on Mars, hundreds of impact craters are forming somewhere on the planet’s surface every year,” Daubar said.

The Martian atmosphere is only about 1 percent as thick as Earth’s. The asteroid belt, an abundant source of space rocks, is located between Mars and Jupiter.

The scientific goals set for InSight ahead of the mission were to investigate the internal structure and processes of Mars, as well as studying seismic activity and meteorite impacts.

InSight’s seismometer instrument established that Mars is seismically active, detecting more than 1,300 marsquakes. In research published last year, seismic waves detected by InSight helped decipher the internal structure of Mars, including the first estimates of the size of its large liquid metal core, thickness of its crust, and nature of its mantle.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Government Eases Approval Process for FDI in Space Sector

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Government Eases Approval Process for FDI in Space Sector

India will allow 100% foreign direct investment in the manufacture of satellite systems without official approval and eased the rules for launch vehicles, a government statement said, aiming for a greater share of the global space market.

India’s space ambitions got a boost when it became the first country to land a spacecraft near the unexplored south pole of the moon in August – and the fourth to achieve a soft landing – just days after a similar Russian mission failed.

The government said in a statement late on Wednesday that foreign companies could invest in the manufacture of components and systems or sub-systems for satellites up to 100% without approval.

Foreign firms planning to build satellites in India would not require government approval up to 74% of the investment; for investment in launch vehicles, investment could go up to 49% without such approval, the statement said.

India has privatised space launches and is aiming for a five-fold increase in its share of the global launch market, which some expect to be worth $47.3 billion by 2032. India currently accounts for about 2% of the space economy.

The country hopes that liberalised rules for the space sector, long controlled by the government, will draw interest from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, among others.

The foreign direct investment policy reform is expected to boost employment and will allow companies to set up manufacturing facilities in India, the government said in the statement.

“This will give India access to the latest tech advances and much-needed funds, not only from the country but from international investors too,” said A.K. Bhatt, director general of the Indian Space Association.

Space-related India stocks such as Paras Defence and Space Technologies , MTAR Technologies, Taneja Aerospace and Aviation and Apollo Micro Systems climbed 2% to 5% on Thursday.

© Thomson Reuters 2024


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Neuralink Switches Location From Delaware to Nevada

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Neuralink Switches Location From Delaware to Nevada

Elon Musk‘s brain-chip implant company, Neuralink, changed its location of incorporation from Delaware to Nevada, according to the business portals of both states.

The development comes about a week after Musk said Tesla would hold a shareholder vote to transfer its state of incorporation to Texas from Delaware after a judge invalidated his $56 billion (roughly Rs. 4,64,880 crore) pay package.

However, switching the state of incorporation for Tesla could come with hurdles such as investor lawsuits, particularly if it was seen as a move to secure his pay package, legal experts said.

Musk said last week that Neuralink had implanted its first brain chip in a human patient, who was recovering well after the procedure.

Neuralink did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

In September 2023, the company received approval from an independent review board to begin recruitment for the first human trial of its brain implant for paralysis patients.

Those with paralysis due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may qualify for the study, it said but did not reveal how many participants would be enrolled in the trial, which will take about six years to complete.

The study will use a robot to surgically place a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in a region of the brain that controls the intention to move, Neuralink said, adding that its initial goal is to enable people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.

© Thomson Reuters 2024


Is the iQoo Neo 7 Pro the best smartphone you can buy under Rs. 40,000 in India? We discuss the company’s recently launched handset and what it has to offer on the latest episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Elon Musk’s Neuralink Installs Brain Implant in Human for the First Time

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink Installs Brain Implant in Human for the First Time

Neuralink, the California-based neurotechnology company, has implanted a wireless brain chip in a human for the first time, revealed co-founder Elon Musk. The big development was revealed by Musk on January 29 via a series of posts on X (formerly known as Twitter). Neuralink has been working on creating implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Last year in May, the company received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct human trials. In September 2023, the neurotechnology firm began its human trial recruitment.

Announcing in a post, Musk said, “The first human received an implant from Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.” He also revealed separately that the first BCI product by the company had been named Telepathy. The brain chip enables the control of a computer or a smartphone just by thinking, claimed the co-founder. Interestingly, the company posted a video on YouTube in 2021 where a monkey could be seen controlling a game of ping-pong with his mind, after being implanted with the chip.

“Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal,” he added. The first users of the product will be those who have lost the use of their limbs.

While Neuralink received its FDA approval to conduct human trials last year, it rejected an application to pursue the same in 2022. At the time, the regulatory body had cited major safety concerns involving “the device’s lithium battery; the potential for the implant’s tiny wires to migrate to other areas of the brain; and questions over whether and how the device can be removed without damaging brain tissue,” as per a report by Reuters.

In a 2019 presentation, Musk explained that Neuralink BCIs were composed mostly of polyimide alongside a thin gold or platinum conductor. These were inserted into the brain through an automated process performed by a surgical robot. The chip contains a high number of ultra-thin nodules with wires called probes. The endings of these probes contain electrodes that are capable of locating and reading electrical signals in brain. These signals are then wirelessly transmitted to a device which can convert it into electronic commands to control a device.

In the past, the company has conducted extensive tests on animals and has claimed a high success rate. While performing a successful brain chip implant is a major milestone, the success of the product will be determined by its long-term performance and lack of side effects.


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