NASA's InSight probe nears Mars landing

03 December, 2018, 22:44 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • NASA Looking Toward Manned Mission To Mars 'Sometime In The 2030s'

InSight will land on Mars at approximately 3 P.M. EST.

The European spacecraft Schiaparelli smashed into the planet in 2016 after switching off its retro-rockets too early, scientists believe.

The unmanned spacecraft launched almost seven months ago, and is NASA's first to attempt to touch down on Earth's neighboring planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012.

The NASA InSight Mars Lander is the first spacecraft to study Mars' "deep interior" according to NASA. "But even after landing, we'll need to be patient for the science to begin".

Unlike its roving companions, InSight will not be directly searching for signs of life on Mars.

The science work won't begin in full for several months, however, because it'll take that long for the team to prepare for the deployment of the seismometer suite and heat probe.

"This is super-important stuff for us", Dr Smrekar said.

A NASA spacecraft is making a perilous supersonic descent through the atmosphere of Mars, following a six-month journey.

Philippe Lognonne, the principal investigator on the SEIS, said he was "relieved and very happy" that the probe had landed intact and online. "On Mars, when we start getting these Marsquakes, they're going to be telling us where there's stuff going on on Mars, where the forces are concentrating, and I think that's going to tell us something that was probably completely absent from our models".

Scientists have said that data returned from the instrument will provide a glimpse into the internal activity and structure of the planet.

However, it's not the first time we've attempted to get to Mars. Its mission is to study the interior of the planet. Finding liquid water would be the key discovery that would make Martian exploration relatively easy.

The craft will also have a radio antenna that can measure the planet's wobble.

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The landing will take place on a giant volcanic plain called Elysium Planitia - Curiosity is now to the north of this location.

But don't be fooled by the exotic name.

InSight could hand NASA its eighth win.

The volcanic plain is located near the equator, which guarantees the craft will have enough solar energy. The Rover, which has more than 12 miles on its odometer, is now the only thing operating on the Martian surface.

And finally, there aren't many rocks.

If the MarCOs fail to relay the telemetry, the data will also be stored by other NASA satellites in orbit around Mars, and sent to Earth after the landing.

InSight is expected to touch down at 2.54pm ET, but we won't know until seven minutes later - given the time it takes for messages to transmit from Mars to Earth - if the landing was successful.

"We can't command anything while this is happening". The lander will then reorient itself and enter Martian atmosphere, with the heat shield taking the brunt of it. They're providing the thrust the slowest down the final kilometer.

InSight is scheduled to touch down on Mars today (Nov. 26) at 3 p.m. ET, joining Mars' other robotic inhabitants: Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit (though only Curiosity is now "live", sending signals back to Earth).

"We continue to flawless landing techniques using robotic landers on Mars", Clarke said.

"We want to put our instruments down in the optimal place", Dr Smrekar said.

GROVER: It'll be sending back data in real time, and the MarCO spacecraft will be helping with that, relaying the data.

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