Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

InSight lander: Nasa probe approaches Mars

NASA  JPL-Caltech NASA JPL-Caltech
| 27 November, 2018, 04:33

Its 124km descent to the surface will be slowed by atmospheric friction, a giant parachute and retro rockets.

The robotic geologist - created to explore Mars' mysterious insides - must go from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and lands on three legs.

InSight - created to explore Mars' insides, surface to core - must go from 12,300 miles per hour to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and, hopefully, lands on three legs. The entry, descent, and landing phases will each emit a slightly different radio frequency, enabling engineers to track InSight's progress.

Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leapt out of their chairs, screaming, dancing and hugging, upon learning that InSight's had safely arrived on Mars, the graveyard for a multitude of previous missions.

This image made available by NASA shows the planet Mars. Everyone sighed with relief, but today NASA is doing it all over again, only this time with the InSight lander. Signals also could travel straight from InSight to radio telescopes in West Virginia and Germany.

Since this is InSight's primary mission, though, the team needs to proceed very carefully at this point.

Nasa's first spacecraft built to explore the deep interior of another world streaked toward a landing scheduled for Monday on a vast, barren plain on Mars, carrying instruments to detect planetary heat and seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth. MarCO will try to share data about InSight when it enters the Martian atmosphere for the landing. Then, it will touch down at 2:54 pm ET. InSight's actual landing on Mars is hard, and it's critical that it is completed perfectly.

NASA scientists chose InSight's landing zone, the vast and tiresome Elysium Planitia, because they're interested in Mars's interior, not its surface.


Horne said the mission could even bring us one step closer towards answering the question of whether aliens exist somewhere out there in the universe.

But the engineers prepared the spacecraft to land during a dust storm if need be.

The seismometer "is really the heart of the InSight mission", Banerdt said. Instead, the stationary 800-pound lander will use its 6-foot robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground. "Knowing there is so much going on here in space and Mars is exciting for my son and us", said Tess Peterson.

This is the reason NASA scientists have picked Elysium Planitia as the place to land the InSight.

Last week the space agency announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 Rover will land on the Red Planet.

Nasa hopes to measure Marsquakes and find out if the Red Planet has a liquid core and whether it contains iron. "Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars' deep interior - information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home".

According to NASA, everything about the landing went perfectly, as planned, with the lander and the MarCO cubesats performing right on schedule.

And InSight will also burrow five meters below the Martian surface to take the planet's temperature.

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