Monday , June 27 2022

"Seven Minutes of Terror" as the NASA Insight probe lands on Mars | Science


After a seven-month journey, the NASA InSight probe is about to reach Mars and – if touchdown goes on plan – to launch an unprecedented mission to map the interior of the planet.

Lander will head to one of the most expensive parts of the dusty surface of the planet, Elysium Planitia, a vast lava field that the US space agency calls "the largest Mars car park." The flat and uncluttered surface was considered the perfect spot for InSight to record the tremor triggered by "Marsquakes" and to measure the heat flow in the upper layers of the planet.

The $ 814 million mission will help scientists understand the Martian core, crust and mantle, letting them know for the first time how the planet was formed at the dawn of the solar system 4,6 billion years ago.

The landing of a probe on Mars remains a difficult business for rocket scientists: only 40% of missions have succeeded. Nasa is the only space agency to land on the planet, most recently in 2012, when Curiosity Rover was lowered to the surface by a "crane of heaven." In 2016, the European Space Agency tried to put Mars on the ground, but the Schiaparelli probe stopped the retro-missiles too soon and broke the ground.

The InSight coverage is expected to reach around Monday at 20:00 GMT, and multiple critical steps must work fine. Spacecraft will be thrown into the thin Martian atmosphere at a speed of 13,200 mph, install a parachute and trigger 12 retrospective weapons to cushion their landing. Nasa calls the entry, descent, and landing phase of Mars' missions "seven minutes of terror". Confirmation of landing will be displayed on Earth through two experimental cubes that pulled the probe to its destination.


The impression of an artist of InSight with parachute took place. Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / PA

On the surface of Mars, InSight (for internal exploration by seismic investigations) will be based on a series of tools to study the internal structure of the planet. A robot-mounted seismometer will act as a loose ear and listen to the tremor produced when the underground rock faces slid over each other along the geological lines. Bruce Banerdt, chief mission scientist at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, expects InSight to record anything from a dozen to 100 Marshals of 3.5 or greater in the Lander's two-year mission. The seismometer is so sensitive that it can detect vibrations smaller than the width of an atom.

Another instrument on the ground is a heat-like probe that will drop vertically into the ground and measure the rate at which heat escapes from the planet. The interior of the planet Mars is cooling down from the hot days of its assembly in the solar system, and the heat leaves the planet, contracts and surface wrinkles.

A third InSight experiment will exploit two radio antennas on lander. The mission scientists can use these elements to track the lander's position with extreme precision, and thus deduce how much Mars is spinning on its axis while orbiting the sun. The quantity that rotates reflects the size of the planet and whether it is melted or solid.

Lori Glaze, the interim director of the NASA Planetary Science Division, said: "Once InSight is established on the red planet and its tools are being deployed, it will begin collecting valuable information about Mars' deep inside structure – information that will help us we understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including what we call home. "

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