Beyond the Bricks: 11/26

NASA Lander Reaches Mars

NASA’s InSight probe landed on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018. It is the first craft to arrive on the planet since the Curiosity rover in 2012.

A little under 30 hours after the landing, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) received confirmation that InSight had deployed its solar panels and would have the power to carry out its mission of gathering data about the interior of Mars. It will accomplish this with a heat probe that extends up to 16 feet below the surface of the ground and a collection of three seismometers which will record “marsquakes” and meteorite impacts.

According to, Bruce Banerdt of JPL stated, “[The seismometers] can see vibrations with an amplitude of about the size of an atom — maybe a fraction of an atom.”

Neither the probe nor the seismometers have been deployed yet and Banerdt says it will be months before they are fully in operation. The many instruments were made available for the lander through international cooperation with France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales, the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris and the German Aerospace Center, with other contributions made by a number of organizations listed by NASA.

InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. According to NASA, its objective is to “give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago.”

NASA scientists hope that the information InSight collects will help them understand not just the composition of Mars, but how all rocky planets are formed. The craft was launched in May with two CubeSats (miniature spacecrafts), named Mars Cube One (MarCO-A and MarCO-B), that tagged along behind InSight on its journey and relayed data back to Earth as it landed.

Russia-Ukraine Conflict at Sea

On Oct. 25, 2018 three Ukrainian naval ships sailing into the Kerch Strait were fired upon and seized by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) border guards. At least three Ukrainian sailors were wounded and a total of 24 were captured.

The FSB claims that the ships had entered closed Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine says that the attack was in violation of the international treaty. BBC News referred to the incident as “the most dangerous clash at sea off Crimea since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.” The United Nations Security Council plans to meet and discuss the conflict.

Donald Trump cancelled an upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin because of the clash.

Stated by BBC, Trump tweeted, “Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting [with Putin] ...”

Tear Gas Deployed at U.S.-Mexico Border

Controversy continues to follow the use of tear gas by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on a crowd of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

BBC News reported that the incident occurred on Oct. 25, 2018, “after a migrants' march in Tijuana spiralled out of control, with hundreds of migrants attempting to breach barriers separating Mexico from the U.S.”

Customs and Border Patrol agents were allegedly assaulted and fired tear gas in what Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen referred to as “self-defense,” according to BBC. The news site also quoted President Trump’s statement of support for the border agents, saying that they used a “very minor form of the tear gas.”

Others have been critical of the use of tear gas on the crowd, which included children. BBC noted that Trump’s claim “was disputed by some journalists at the scene, who said the tear gas was painful even from a significant distance away.” Mexico’s foreign ministry has asked for an investigation into the event.  

The Associated Press reported that 42 people were arrested during the confrontation, but no criminal charges have been pressed.