NASA is in the countdown to Mars landing on the Mars InSight probe, something that will happen next Monday. The probe cost was $ 993 million and was the first to hear earthquakes and study the inner functioning of another rock planet.
The unmanned spacecraft was launched nearly seven months ago and traveled about 482 million kilometers.
Part of her mission is to pass on information to send human researchers one day to the red planet, something NASA hopes to achieve in the 30s of the 20th century.
The landing of the Mars probe is the first of 2012 when NASA's Curiosity Experiment surfaced and analyzed the rocks for signs of life that probably lived the planet to the Earth, now cold and dry.
InSight has to survive the difficult entry into the atmosphere of the red planet: it is currently moving at a speed of 19,800 kilometers per hour, and once it has to quickly reduce it to just 8 kilometers per hour.
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The entry, descent and landing phase will begin at 17:47 on Monday (local time). NASA refers to this as "six and a half minutes of terror."
Of the 43 missions fired to Mars, only 18 have reached the red planet, a success of about 40%, and all come from the United States.
"Going to Mars is very, very difficult," says Thomas Zurbuhen, an associate administrator of the NASA Missions Directorate.
The name InSight is translated into an "in-house survey" that refers to seismic surveying, geodesy and heat transfer.
With the full load of fuel, InSight weighs over 360kg, almost the same as the Harley Davidson motorcycle. If you install solar panels, you can measure almost 6 meters.
Its central instrument is a seismometer for earthquake detection by the French Space Agency (CNES).
"This is NASA's only mission, which is designed around a foreign-made instrument," said Jean-Eve Le Gall, president of CNES, for AFP.
He added, "This is a major mission for both the United States and France," as it will allow Mars to be better understood.
The six earthquake sensors on board are so sensitive that they have to reveal the finest shakes on Mars, such as the weak attraction of their moon to Phobos, the impacts of the meteor and the possible evidence of volcanic activity.
The ship also has a self-propelled probe that allows digging at a depth of between 3 and 5 meters and will enable the first accurate measurement of the underground temperatures on Mars and the amount of heat coming out of it.
The InSight landing will be replaced by a parachute that will allow the unmanned spacecraft's speed to drop to 19,800 km / h. The thermal shield will help delay the ship and protect it from friction leading to its entry into the atmosphere of the red planet.
The landing site will be in a flat area called Elysium Planitia, which NASA defines as "Mars's largest parking lot."
The US space agency will know within a few minutes whether the landing has been successful or not but will have to wait more than five hours to confirm that the unmanned ships have managed to locate the equipment without any inconvenience.
They will look for signs of life on the red planet
A NASA spacecraft, to be launched in 2020, will look for evidence of whether Mars had ever lived, analyzing the rocks of an ancient lake and the delta, two geographic features that could preserve the signs of ancient organisms the US space agency said a few days ago.
The ship will land on a 45-kilometer-long crater, which has once been the home of the river, so it could retain the signs of organic molecules and microbes, the experts explained.