NASA chose an area of Elysium Planitia – the high plains near the Martian equator – as the landing site of the InSight spacecraft later this month (26 November 2018). Of the 22 sites considered, only Elysium Planitia encountered basic engineering constraints and was not too rocky or too windy.
Previous Mars missions have investigated the surface of the planet by studying canons, volcanoes, stones, and soil. But InSight is a lander with three legs – not a rover – and will stay wherever it will. His mission is to detect and study the evidence buried far below the surface of the planet to study the deep inside of Mars. Tom Hoffman is an InSight project manager at JPL. Hoffman said in a statement:
For the first time, the assessment for a Mars landing site had to take into account what was under the surface of Mars. Not only is there a need for a safe landing place, but also a working space that can be penetrated by our 16-foot (16 feet) heat-flow probe.
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NASA said the site should also be bright enough and warm enough to power the solar cells, while keeping electrons within temperature limits for a Martian year (26 Earth months). Thus, the team concentrated on a band around the equator, where the lander's solar matrix would have adequate sunlight to propel its systems throughout the year. Finding an area that would be safe enough for InSight to land and then use its solar panels and the barrier-free tools lasted a little longer. Hoffman said:
The site must be a height small enough to have a sufficient atmosphere above it for a safe landing because the spacecraft will first rely on atmospheric friction with its thermal shield and then on a parachute digging into Mars's thin atmosphere for much of its deceleration. And once the trough has fallen and the rockets have hit the final descent, there must be a flat stretch to land – not too sharp and relatively free of rocks that could tip Mars' triangular edge.
The site is a landing ellipse of 81 miles (17 miles) wide (130 km wide, 27 km wide) on the western edge of a plain and smooth lava stretch.
Bruce Banerdt is the chief investigator of InSight at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Banerdt said:
If you were a Martian coming to explore the interior of the Earth as if exploring the interior of Mars, it would not matter if you put yourself down in the middle of Kansas or on the beaches of Oahu. While I'm looking forward to these first surface images, I'm even more keen to see the first sets of data that reveal what's going on deep under our landing buffers. The beauty of this mission is under the surface. Elysium Planitia is perfect.
After a 205-day trip starting on May 5, 2018, NASA's InSight mission will reach Mars on November 26. Its solar panels will take place within a few hours of touch.
Bottom Line: NASA chose Elysium Planion as landing space for endowing the space ship InSight on November 26, 2018.