Wednesday , May 5 2021

8 tense minutes, and then good news for the UBC planetary scientist involved in landing on Mars



Eight minutes on Monday afternoon, the crowd at the University of British Columbia Museum Gallery was silently silent while life was broadcasting a NASA spacecraft, going down to Mars.

The bets were particularly high for one of the viewers: Catherine Johnson, a UBC planetary scientist who is the only Canadian participant in the mission.

"Eight minutes of a nail bite, and then happily good news," she said on Monday at CBC's On the shore, just a few hours after the InSight's three-legged prick touched the red planet.

The spacecraft, designed to rise below the surface of Mars, was unloaded Monday after a six-month 482 million-mile journey and a dangerous, six-minute descent through the pink-colored atmosphere.

Flight Controllers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California jumped out of their seats and exploded in screams, applause, and laughter when news came out that InSight's three-legged lander had touched the red planet.

"Impeccable," said JPL Chief Engineer Rob Manning. "This is what we really hoped for and imagined in our minds," he said. "Sometimes things are developing to your advantage.

Travel to the NASA Lab

In Vancouver, the landing took five years to prepare for Johnson and her team. But their work has just begun.

Johnson's team is investigating clashes, including where they happen to understand active anomalies. He also looks at the water content of the rocks to shed light on the history of the planet's water.

Johnson travels to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on Wednesday.

Catherine Johnson and her team have spent five years preparing for the mission of Mars. (Catherine Johnson / UBC)

The plan is to include a magnetometer Thursday to measure the planet's magnetic field, Johnson said. It will use this data to better understand the atmosphere of the planet.

"I'm excited to have a good view of the interior," she said. "To find out where and when the earthquakes occur, how big they are, how many they are and where they are."

She added: "This is a great, great mission for the planetary scientific community."

Listen to the whole interview with Johnson below:

Catherine Johnson is a planetary scientist from UBC, the only Canadian participant in NASA's last mission to Mars. 07:19

What a Relief & # 39;

In North America, live exhibitions were held in museums, planets and libraries, and Times Square in New York.

Two small mini satellites that go through InSight since they go out in May provide real-time real-time updates of the supersonic descent of the spacecraft through the reddish sky. The satellite also shot a quick photo from the surface of Mars.

The image was dazzled by debris on the lid of the camera. But this quick glance at the window showed a flat, sandy surface with little if there were any rocks – just what the scientists were hoping for. Better pictures will arrive in the hours and days ahead.

The first photo sent to Earth after InSight's landing touched Mars on Monday: a view of a flat, smooth area of ​​the Red Planet called Elysium Planitia. (EPA-EFE / NASA)

"What relief," Manning said. "It's really fantastic." He added, "It will never get old."

The InSight spacecraft reached the surface after moving from 19,800 km / h to zero for six minutes on a flat level using parachute and deceleration brake motors. Radar signals confirming the landing took more than eight minutes to cross nearly 160 million kilometers between Mars and the Earth.

It was NASA's ninth attempt to land on Mars in 1976 on Viking probes. All but one of the previous US touchdowns were successful.

NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with Rover's curiosity.

The concept of the artist shows InSight Lander, its sensors, cameras and tools. After a six-month voyage, the spacecraft successfully touched Mars on Monday. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

"Landing on Mars is one of the toughest single jobs people have to do in exploring the planet," said InSight leading scientist Bruce Banner. "It's such a tough thing, it's such a dangerous thing that there's always a pretty unpleasant chance that something can go wrong."

40 percent success for missions on Mars

Mars is the cemetery of many space missions. So far, the success rate of the red planet has been only 40%, counting every attempt to fly, orbit and land, from the US, Russia and other countries since the 1960s.

The impression of the artist shows that InSight enters the Mars atmosphere, about 128 kilometers above the surface and just minutes from the landing. (NASA / JPL)

However, the United States has taken seven successful landings on Mars in the last four decades without counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown.

No other country has managed to set and manage a spacecraft on the dusty red surface.

InSight has fired for Elysium Planitia, a plane near the Martian equator, which InSight's team hopes to be as flat as a car park in Kansas with a few, if any, stones.

This is not a rock gathering expedition. Instead, the stationary 360-killer landing will use his 1.8-meter robotic hand to place a mechanical mole and a seismometer on the ground.

The suicide mine will drop five meters down to measure the warmth of the planet as the seismometer listens for possible earthquakes.

But just implementing these tools will take several months, as NASA scientists will first have to assess the health of the spacecraft and the area in which it has landed.

There is no way to detect life

Nothing like this has ever tried before on Mars, a planet some 160 million kilometers from Earth.

People react while watching InSight Land on Mars from Times Square in New York. (Brendan McDermidy / Reuters)

None of the droughts have dug more than a few centimeters and no seismometer ever worked on Mars.

Investigating the interior of Mars, the scientists hope to understand how the rocky planets of our solar system formed about 4.5 billion years ago and why they were so different – Mars, cold and dry, Venus and Mercury, hot and Earth-friendly to life.

"We are trying to get back to the earliest stages of the planet in time," Banner said. "The fingerprints of these early processes are simply not on Earth."

InSight, however, has no ability to detect life. This will be left to future ruvers. For example, the mission of NASA Mars 2020 will collect rocks that will ultimately be returned to Earth and analyzed for evidence of ancient life.


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