Tuesday , June 28 2022

NASA's anxiety as the Mars InSight spacecraft approaches Red Planet


This composite photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by the Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. In our family of solar systems, Mars is the near future of the Earth, a close relative that has captured people for millennia. The attraction is sure to grow on Monday with the arrival of a NASA lander called InSight. Image: NASA through AP

Tampa – Seven years of work and a journey of nearly seven months were about to be covered by nearly seven minutes of terror, while NASA ticked the final hours until the dramatic landing of the $ 993 million Mars InSight ship.

Mars InSight's goal is to listen to earthquakes and trembling as a way to reveal the inner mysteries of the Red Planet, as it has now formed billions of years, and by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth have formed.

Unmanned spacecraft are the first to attempt to reach the Earth's neighboring planet since the Curiosity ship arrived in 2012.

More than half of the 43 attempts to reach Mars with rovers, orbits and probes by space agencies around the world have failed.

NASA is the only space agency to do and is invested in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first human explorers linked to Mars in the 2030s.

"We never take Mars by any means, Mars is hard," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the mission's direction, on Sunday.

The inlet, lowering and landing phase of the nail starts at 11:47 PM (1940 GMT / 2140 SA) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which hosts mission control for Mars InSight.

A carefully orchestrated sequence – already fully programmed aboard the spacecraft – takes place in the next few minutes, has generated "six and a half minutes of terror."

Accelerating faster than a bullet at a distance of 19,800 kilometers per hour, the heat-protected space ship encounters friction when it enters Mars' atmosphere.

The heat shield reaches a temperature of 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1500 degrees Celsius). Radio signals may be lost shortly.

The thermal shield is thrown, the three landing legs are running, and the parachute comes out.

"We are in a free fall for a while, which is absolutely terrible for me," said Tom Hoffman, project manager at InSight.

But then, the pumps started to flash, continuing to further slow down 800 kilos at a speed of about 5 mph when it reached the surface.

Because there is no joystick back to Earth for this spacecraft and no way to intervene if something goes wrong, Hoffman described his emotions as being mixed.

"I am completely comfortable and completely nervous at the same time," he said.

"We've done everything we can to make sure we're successful, but you never know what's going to happen."

Hoffman added that "he did not sleep so great," though he said it could be because of his elderly children aged two and four.

When the first signal arrives in 2001 GMT, we hope to show that the lander sat down, intact and upright: "At this point I will unleash my four-year-old interior," he said.

Zurbuchen described it as "unique" InSight, because the large-scale soil contains tools that have been contributed by several European space agencies.

The French National Center for Etudes Spatial (CNES) has developed the Experimental Seismic Instrument for Inland Structure (SEIS), the key element for earthquake awareness.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has provided a pile of self-hammer that can swell in the surface – more than any other instrument before – to measure the heat flow.

Spain's Centro de Astrobiologia made the spacecraft's wind sensors.

Other significant contributions to the project came from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronomy, the Swiss Institute of Technology and the Imperial College in London and Oxford University in the UK.

Together, these tools will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator at InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Listening to the tremor on Mars, either due to earthquakes or the impact of meteors, or even volcanic activity, scientists can learn more about its interior and reveal how it formed the planet.

The aim is to map the interior of Mars into three dimensions, "so we understand Mars' interior, and we have come to understand the exterior of Mars," Banerdt told reporters.

NASA made a final correction of the course Sunday late.

With the rest of the landing sequence, all pre-programmed programs, which all NASA scientists can do, are to shake their fingers and increase their hopes.

Coverage at NASA's website begins at 11:00 (1900 GMT / 2100 SA).


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