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Anxiety at NASA while the Mars InSight spacecraft approaches Red Planet



The goal of Mars Insight is to hear tremors and tremors as a way to unveil the inner mysteries of the Red Planet, how it was formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape.

LOS ANGELES – The best scientists at NASA have admitted sleepless nights, sweaty palms, stomach aches and moments of pure terror as their $ 993 million Mars Insight spacecraft approaches a dramatic end on Monday: landing on Mars.

The goal of Mars Insight is to hear tremors and tremors as a way to unveil the inner mysteries of the Red Planet, how it was formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape.

The unmanned spacecraft, launched nearly seven months ago, is NASA's first to attempt to land on Earth's neighbor planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012.

More than half of the 43 attempts to reach Mars with rovers, orbiters and probes from space agencies around the world have failed.

OBSERVE: How will NASA's InSight spacecraft land on Mars?



NASA is the only space agency that has achieved this, and it invests in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first human explorers bound for Mars in the 2030s.

"We never take Mars for granted, Mars is difficult," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for scientific missions, on Sunday.

AN ABSOLUTELY TERRIFICING THOUGHT & # 39;

The great drama of the entrance, descent and landing phase starts at 11:47 a.m. at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the mission control for Mars Insight is located.

A carefully orchestrated sequence, already completely preprogrammed aboard the spacecraft, will take place over the next few minutes, coined "six and a half minutes of terror."

Accelerating faster than a bullet at 12,300 mph, the armored spacecraft encounters scorching frictions as it enters the atmosphere of Mars.

The heat shield rises to a temperature of about 1,500 degrees Celsius. The radio signals may be lost briefly.

The heat shield is discarded, the three landing legs are deployed and the parachute is launched.

"We have fallen for a moment, which is an absolutely scary thought for me," said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager.

But then, the spacecraft's thrusters begin firing, further reducing the ship's speed of 800 pounds (365 kilograms) at a speed of almost 8 kph when it reaches the surface.

Since there is no joystick on Earth for this spacecraft, and there is no way to intervene if something goes wrong, Hoffman described his emotions as mixed.

"I'm completely comfortable and completely nervous at the same time," he said.

"We've done everything we can think to make sure we succeed, but you never know what's going to happen."

Graph about current active satellites and rovers in and around the planet Mars. The InSight landing is scheduled to land on Mars on November 26.

Hoffman, who is the father of a two- and four-year-old boy, added that he "has not been sleeping as well", although he said that could be due to his young children.

But when the first signal arrives at 2001 GMT, hopefully showing that the lander sank, intact and upright, "at that moment I will release my four-year-old boy," he said.

Zurbuchen described InSight as "unique" because the landing module at waist level contains instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.

The National Space Studies Center of France (CNES) turned the instrument of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the key element to detect earthquakes.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a hammered auto mole that can be buried 16 feet (five meters) on the surface, farther than any other instrument before, to measure heat flow.

The Center for Astrobiology of Spain made the wind sensors of the spacecraft.

Other important contributions to the project came from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Switzerland and the Imperial College and the University of Oxford in Great Britain.

Together, these instruments will use physics to study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

By listening to earthquakes on Mars, whether by earthquakes or meteor impacts or even by volcanic activity, scientists can learn more about its interior and reveal how the planet was formed.

The goal is to map the interior of Mars in three dimensions, "so we understand the inside of Mars and we have come to understand the outside of Mars," Banerdt told reporters.

Understanding how Mars was formed could also reveal more about the processes that formed the Earth.


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