NASA lander will plunge to Mars today in harrowing 6-minute descent

Postado Dezembro 01, 2018

Unsurprisingly, the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., erupted in cheers.

If successful, the Lander will become the space agency's first probe to reach the Red Planet in six years. The Soviet Union's Mars 3 did reporting back its landing at a jarring 46 miles per hour in a dust storm.

"It was very, very quiet when it was time to be quiet and of course very celebratory as every new piece of information was received". Insight is the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars.

The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in nearly real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4½ minutes after landing.

That's a part of the spacecraft only needed while InSight is traveling from Earth to Mars. But due to the communication delay with the spacecraft, by the time NASA mission controllers get a signal that it has entered Mars' atmosphere, InSight will already have landed.

If successful, the entry, descent and landing of the Mars InSight - created to be the first mission to listen to the interior of another planet and reveal how rocky planets are formed - will add another success to Nasa's record when it comes to sending spacecraft to Mars.

"We never take Mars for granted".

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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. The spacecraft will be landing on Elysium Planitia, a large volcanic plain stretching north of Mars' equator. As these tremors travel through rock, they reveal the thickness and composition of the planet's internal layers, NASA officials explained in a statement.

Earth's overall success rate at Mars is 40 percent.

The stationary 360-kilogram lander will use its 1.8-metre robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground when it arrives on Mars.

The $1 billion global effort calls for the robotic geologist to explore Mars' mysterious interior. This should help answer questions about the formation of rocky planets in the inner solar system.

At the time of landing, the probe will overcome the distance equal to 484 million km Mars Rover, InSight will not be able to move along the surface of the planet. "But even after landing, we'll need to be patient for the science to begin". Instead, InSight will send a probe to burrow several feet below the planet's surface.

The lander component initially looks a fair bit like the re-entry capsule used in the 1960s and 1970s for the Apollo moon missions - sort of conical, with a smooth and flat bottom.

Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight's project manager, added:"Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving [to prepare], but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort". Signals will come from various sources - the lander during descent; two experimental briefcase-sized spacecraft called MarCOs that flying behind InSight; InSight itself after landing; the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft during descent; the 2001 Mars Odyssey after InSight's touchdown.