Tuesday , June 28 2022

NASA's Mars InSight Landing: Back to Red Planet once again


More than six months and 300 million miles from the launch of the California Vandenberg Air Force base, NASA's InSight Lander is due to reach Mars, on Monday, to study the red planet.

NASA's study of the planet Mars focused on the planet's surface and the possibility of life at the beginning of its history. By contrast, InSight's name is a compression of in-house exploration using seismic, geodesy and heat transport – to study the mysteries of the planet, seeking to respond to geophysical questions about structure, composition, and how it was formed.

The coverage point is set to appear at 2:54 p.m. Eastern time.

To be precise, that is, the "Earth reception time" – when the landing signal arrives on Earth (and the commencement of the Commandment applause).

The actual landing is scheduled to take place at 14:47. The radio signal must travel 91 million miles on Earth from Mars, 8 minutes later (the amount of time needed to travel so far).

The very thin air of Mars makes the landing a particularly challenging one. There is enough air that molecule friction will heat parts of the InSight exterior to 2700 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt steel – but there is not enough air to pull to slow the space ship long.

Thus, InSight equipment will use a number of mechanisms – a thermal shield, parachutes and rocket engines – to slow down. They have to reach the Martian surface at a speed of 5 miles per hour. At sixteen minutes – to allow time for dust released from landing to settle – the space ship has to unhook its solar panels.

NASA engineers know the system can work. The InSight design is almost identical to that of the Phoenix Mars Lander, which was successfully launched on Mars in 2008.

The landing site has the idyllic name Elysium Planitia, near the northern hemisphere equator. Mission researchers described the region as a parking or "Kansas without corn".

This is intentional. Because the mission is not interested in rocky lands or sunsets, planners chose the weakest and safest place the space ship could land.

How often does the soil shake with marsquakes? How big is the melt core of Mars? How thick is the crust? How much heat is flowing up from degradation of radioactive elements at the core of the planet? These are some of the questions the mission scientists hope to answer.

InSight carries two main instruments: a dome-shaped bundle containing seismometers and a heat probe that should rise to about 16 feet down. NASA has spent $ 814 million on InSight. In addition, France and Germany have invested 180 million dollars to build these major instruments.

Seismometers, which are designed to measure surface movements smaller than the width of a hydrogen atom, will produce what are essentially sonograms of the islands of the planet. In particular, scientists seek to record at least 10-12 marsquakes in two years. Temblors on Mars are not caused by the plaque tectonics, as on Earth. Instead, they are generated when the crust of the planet cracks because of internal cooling and shrinking. Seismometers could also detect other meteoric seismic vibrations by striking Mars.

With the help of the data, scientists expect to be able to put together a three-dimensional image of the planet's interior.

Not for a while.

The first five to six weeks will be spent largely to check the health of the spacecraft, including its robotic arm. After that, the arm will raise the dome's seismometer from the main deck of the ground and put it on the ground. The heated heat probe will be installed afterwards and it will take about 40 days to reach the final 16-foot depth.

The main mission of InSight on the surface is to last almost two years.

These are not napkins. They're small spaceships!

NASA uses the InSight mission to test new technologies. Two identical spacecraft, known as Mars Cube One, or Marco in short, were launched with InSight in May. Marco A and B then separated from the InSight cruise stage and went through time.

Hundreds of miniature satellites, known as CubeSats, have launched in orbit around Earth in recent years, but this is the first time CubeSats have been sent on an interplanetary journey.

Marco spacecraft will ship InSight telemetry to Earth. If it works, a photo from InSight might arrive within minutes of its arrival. But NASA does not rely on Marco. The data will also be transmitted via two other orbital spacecraft, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

In orbit, NASA also has Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and Maven. The European Space Agency has Mars Express and ExiMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The Indian Space Research Organization has the Mars Orbiter mission, also known as Mangalyaan.

On the surface, NASA now has the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, although Opportunity with solar energy has been quiet since the summer when a global dust storm prevented it from generating enough power to function. NASA hopes that Opportunity will revive now the skies have been eliminated.

2020 could be busy.

NASA plans to launch another rover, similar to Curiosity, but with a different set of tools that will look for life blocks. A collaboration between the European Space Agency and Russia will launch ExoMars, which will also carry instruments to try to answer if life had ever existed on Mars.

China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and India also plan to launch spacecraft on Mars in 2020.

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