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NASA Spacecraft To Endure '7 Minutes of Terror' In Mars Landing

27 November 2018
NASA Spacecraft To Endure '7 Minutes of Terror' In Mars Landing

Once InSight phones home from the Martian surface, though, he expects to behave much like his three young grandsons did at Thanksgiving dinner, running around like insane and screaming. It was launched in May from California, and hurdled 301 million miles through space before reaching Mars.

The MarCO spacecraft hitched a ride with InSight.

"We've studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry", said Dr. Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

The MarCo satellites could also relay InSight's first picture of its landing site. Tricky from the lander's deck.

This explains why the descent will prove to be nerve-racking minutes of terror for Nasa, because the mission managers will have little idea about how the spacecraft will be faring in real time, given the lag in receiving signals.

So far, the United States is the only nation to have made it there, and only Nasa's unmanned Curiosity robotic rover is still tooling around on the surface.

"It takes thousands of steps to go from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, and each one of them has to work perfectly", Rob Manning, the chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a video.

Add to that the fact that fewer than half of all attempted Mars landings have ended successfully, and it makes sense that there will definitely be some nervous energy as these events play out on another planet, with engineers blind to the process until it is complete.

Earth's overall success rate at Mars is 40 per cent.

The broadcast will most likely feature commentators from NASA interspersed with some mock-up landing footage. This intense heat could cause temporary dropouts in radio signals.

Explosives will eject the heat shield 15 seconds later, exposing the InSight probe hidden inside. Then, the descent engines, known as retrorockets, begin to fire.

The InSight mission will also bring several martian "firsts" to interplanetary science, including the first seismometer situated on the surface, to detect and analyze waves created by "marsquakes".

22 seconds later: The probe slows down to 5 miles per hour. Let us know in the comments.

NASA's first robotic lander created to study the deep interior of a distant world hurtled closer to Mars on course for a planned touchdown on Monday after a six-month voyage through space.

InSight's science mission won't begin right away.

But when the first signal arrives at 2001 GMT, hopefully showing that the lander set itself down, intact and upright, "I am totally going to unleash my inner four-year-old at that point", he said. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's perspective and monitor the environment.

InSight is scheduled to land at Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator on Monday. This spot is open, flat safe and boring, which is what the scientists want for a stationary two-year mission.

After landing, InSight will send a tone beacon indicating its status.

The device is due to burrow about 16 feet underground like a mole to collect heat samples and determine whether the planet has any formative characteristics similar to Earth.

Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core.

Today's the day for the Mars InSight lander's touchdown on the Red Planet, and NASA is pulling out all the stops to let us in on the action.