Science

NASA spacecraft lands on Mars

NASA spacecraft lands on Mars”

The only companions InSight will have are its two Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), both in orbit above the planet.

For the first time in six years, a new mission is about to land on Mars. Now, after six months and 301 million miles (485 million kilometers), InSight is set to touch down on the Red Planet's surface at 2:54 P.M. Eastern Time this afternoon.

"We've spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us", said Rob Grover, InSight's entry, descent and landing (EDL) lead, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a recent statement. Only 40% of missions sent to Mars have succeeded.

The NASA Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

Nasa's InSight probe has been travelling since May and is due to make a soft landing around 8pm GMT following a seven minute nail-biting descent in which the craft needs to decelerate from 12,300 miles per hour to just 5mph.

"By comparing Earth's interior to that of Mars, InSight's team members hope to better understand our solar system", according to JPL. But due to the communication delay with the spacecraft, by the time NASA mission controllers get a signal that it has entered Mars' atmosphere, InSight will already have landed.

Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight's project manager, added:"Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving [to prepare], but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort". "Because these are two rocky planets, and our goal is to be able to compare Mars with the Earth".

There are two almost identical MarCO spacecraft that launched with InSight last May, and have been trailing the probe on its flight to Mars. This probe is nicknamed "the mole" as it is self-penetrating: Once placed on the surface, it can dig a hold as deep as 5 metres, gradually using a tether to descend and measure how heat is transferred under Mars's surface and how it flows in the core.

Landing on Mars is no simple task.

InSight is scheduled to land at Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator on Monday. InSight represents NASA's ninth attempt to put a spacecraft on Mars; only one effort failed.

The smaller, 880-pound (360 kg) InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st US -launched Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s.

Unlike Opportunity and Curiosity, the rovers that trundle across Mars in search of interesting rocks, InSight is created to sit and listen.

Twelve thrusters will slow InSight to the surface of Mars.

The two tiny spacecraft will continue in their sun-centered orbit, and the MarCo team is discussing with NASA options for further projects for the mission.

It's aiming for flat red plains, hopefully low on rocks.

Bridenstine said Monday that information from InSight may guide a potential crewed mission to Mars by providing information about Mars' water, the risk of asteroid impacts, and resources that could potentially be utilized by human explorers.



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