Insight Spacecraft Touches Down On Mars

NASA Looking Toward Manned Mission To Mars 'Sometime In The 2030s'

The InSight mission - short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - is the first ever dedicated to Mars' deep interior, and it will be the first NASA mission since the Apollo moon landings to place a seismometer on the soil of another celestial body.

To reach Mars, InSight cruised 301,223,981 miles at a top speed of 6,200 mph, while being followed by two cube satellites. - NASA is counting down to a nail-biting touchdown on November 26, 2018, of the $993 million Mars InSight, the first spacecraft to listen for quakes and study the inner workings of another rocky planet. Talking to the BBC, NASA chief scientist Thomas Zurbuchen said InSight must first get through "seven minutes of terror", referring to the time it takes you to get through Mars' atmosphere. A radio signal from Mars to Earth now takes about eight minutes and seven seconds to get here.

NASA and Lockheed engineers won't know right away whether the spacecraft has made it safely down to the surface-there is a time delay of 8.1 minutes for communications between Earth and Mars at present. "Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system". There will then be a post-landing news briefing no earlier than 2 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST.

An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars.

The power, which NASA reckoned would be enough run a household blender, will drive the three main instruments carried by the lander.

"Everything we've done to date makes us feel comfortable and confident we're going to land on Mars", added Hoffman, who's based at JPL.

InSight also is fitted with a German-made drill to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 metres) underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat.

Of 43 other global attempts to send orbiters, probes, landers or rovers to Mars, 25 have not made it.

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.

InSight will fly through the Martian air at 12,300 miles per hour and must make initial contact with the atmosphere at an angle of precisely 12 degrees.

Earth's overall success rate at Mars is 40 per cent. They will also provide additional landing data and telemetry for engineers to analyze after the fact, aimed at improving future missions' shots at successfully touching down on Mars.

Unlike its roving companions, InSight will not be directly searching for signs of life on Mars. And Tuesday night, the Mars Odyssey orbiter should confirm that the spacecraft's solar arrays have unfurled.

InSight will also deploy a seismometer to monitor earthquakes, which will also uncover information about the Red Planet's interior.

It's shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas with few, if any, rocks. 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.

Meanwhile, a radio transmitter will send back signals tracking Mars' subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet's core and possibly whether it remains molten.

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