Tuesday , November 24 2020

The InSight flight is on its way to Mars on Monday



After six months and millions of miles travel, NASA's Mars InSight is a few days away from its ultimate destination.

The one-mile, 358-kilogram spacecraft is scheduled to land on the Red Planet on Monday at 3 am. ET. This will surely be a biting experience for the hundreds of people who have worked on the mission.

It is easy to imagine the anxiety that engineers will face during a six and a half minute downhill to the surface of Mars: Of all the missions on the Red Planet, only 40% are successful.

"We all get butterflies when we think that the spacecraft really is landing," said Catherine Johnson, a professor at British Columbia University, who is a joint researcher of the international team that will measure the seismic activity of Mars with InSight.

Watch InSight's chief engineer, Rob Manning, explain what you need to do:

Bsuccess improves. The two NASA's Spirit and Opportunity launched in 2004 have long overtaken their original mission of 90 Martian Days or salt. The Spirit lasted 11 years. The possibility is silent after a monthly rainstorm, but not technically dead.

Then there is curiosity that started in 2011.

The landing site is "really boring and really safe"

When it reaches Mars, InSight will have traveled almost 500 million kilometers because it is not a direct trip. Inside a protected hull, it will enter the mild atmosphere of Mars at around 19,800 km / h. It will deploy a parachute and fire-resistant pushers, which will allow – hopefully – a slight touch to his feet.

The spacecraft will land in the Elysium Planitia area, near the planet's equator, just 550 kilometers from Curiosity.

As spacecraft has recently landed safely, this place is a small challenge: it is at a higher altitude, which means that the spacecraft can not use so much of Mars's thin atmosphere to slow down.

Why choose this place?

"Mainly because it's really, really boring and really safe," Johnson said.

The artist's impression shows that InSight enters the atmosphere of Mars, about 128 km above the surface. Six minutes later the landing is scheduled for Mars. (NASA / JPL)

The area, which is flat, without rocks, is best suited to this geological mission where tools can be easily positioned. If it was a rocky location, the seismometer and drill, also known as The Mole, could not do their job.

InSight is the first geological mission on the Red Planet. For two years, using various instruments, will measure seismic activity, or Marsquakes, as well as the insignificant magnetic field of the planet. It will also take the inner temperature of Mars.

"For those of us who really study the interior of the planets, this is really a really important mission," Johnson said. "We wanted to go to Mars for several decades, so it's really exciting to be almost there."

Mission objectives will help scientists understand Mars and the planetary formation, and this will help pave the way for knowledge what human missions can offer.

Orbits can listen

During the landing, Insight will send signals to NASA's orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and transmit the data when Earth is able to receive the signals.

There is also the opportunity to listen to two CubeSats, small orbits of bread size, the first of its kind to make interplanetary sailing. Mars Cube One – actually two satellites – may be able to get a signal and a relay on Earth instantly.

Engineer Joel Stakeurus is standing with both components of the Mars Cube One spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Engine. One on the left side is folded for storage of the rocket; one on the right has solar panels fully deployed, with a high gain antenna on top. (NASA / JPL)

On Earth two radio telescopes will listen in the beacon to tell operators that InSight has safely reached the surface.

"We'll just be glad when we get the otherwise boring sound that says," Yeah, we're here, "Johnson said.

Watch NASA's landing feed at CBC News, which starts at 14:00. ET. Monday.


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