PHOTOS | A ship costing nearly 1,000 million will set its feet on Monday on Mars if it can survive at great speed and the high temperature of the red atmosphere, something the US space agency NASA) is called "six and a half minutes of terror".
Now the probe is expected Mars InSight "float" on Monday at Elysium Planitia, a very flat area without stones that could damage the ship that NASA denominated as "the largest parking lot in Mars".
"Landing" will not be seen live, but the pictures will be transmitted by the NASA control center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, with a delay in communication between the two eight-minute planets and seven seconds.
Everything will be automated, and NASA engineers on the ground can only be present after eight minutes, the most delicate work of the entire mission.
InSight will enter the Mars atmosphere around 125 kilometers, at 19:47 GMT. At that time, its speed will be approximately 20,000 km / h. Only atmospheric friction will quickly trigger the temperature at 1500 ° C.
The probe will not survive in this oven if there is no heat shield. This was intensified in the case of one of the frequent dust storms on Mars, because sand friction could raise the temperature.
After four minutes the parachute will open automatically, which will lead to a slower downhill. Soon the thermal shield will come out and the device will unfold its three legs.
Then the parachute will come out. InSight will include its 12 engines, which will reduce the drop to 8 km / h.
At 19:54 GMT, about six and a half minutes after entering the atmosphere, InSight should be "tilted."
"There is very little room for things to go wrong," said Rob Grover, head of the jet engine team.
Until now, the United States is the only country that has managed to get to Mars, and only the cyclist Curiously travels to his surface.
But if it fails, it will not be the first time: out of 43 missions sent to Mars, 25 failed. Russian, American and European devices lie on their surface.
The success or failure of the mission will be known almost in real time thanks to two microsatellites named after Marco who made the journey together InSight and they were flying into the formation behind it. They will serve as relays relaying the signal they receive InSight on the ground
If this does not happen, NASA needs to get a "beep" from InSight at 20 GMT, sent directly to Earth. This beep will verify that the device has survived and worked.
The first picture will undoubtedly be confusing due to the cloud of dust created by the blow. And it could arrive in three minutes … or in any case the next day.
Once on the surface, InSight must deploy its three large solar panels very slowly. The information will be forwarded five and a half hours later, because we will have to wait one of the three satellites on Mars orbit to fly it. These satellites will be normal InSight communication contacts throughout their lives.
As for the instruments on board, the French SEIS seismometer and the German HP3 thermometer, its deployment by a robotic hand will take at least "two or three months," according to mission chief Bruce Banerdt. "We will pay close attention to where we will deposit the instruments."
With information from AFP.