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The NASA Mars InSight Landing: back to the red planet once again



More than six months and 300 million miles since it was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the NASA InSight lander is due to reach Mars on Monday to study the red planet.

NASA's study of Mars has focused on the surface of the planet and the possibility of life at an early stage in its history. In contrast, the InSight mission, the name is a compression of interior exploration using seismic investigations, geodesy and heat transport, will study the mysteries of the deep interior of the planet, with the objective of answering geophysical questions about its structure, composition and how it was formed .

The touchdown is expected to occur in 2:54 p.m. Eastern Time.

To be precise, that is the "time of reception of the Earth": when the signal that informs of the landing arrives at the Earth (and the applause in the control room begins).

The actual landing is scheduled to occur at 2:47 p.m. The radio signal then has to travel 91 million miles to Earth from Mars, arriving about 8 minutes later. (the amount of time it takes for light to travel here).

Therefore, the InSight landing vehicle will use a series of mechanisms (a heat shield, parachutes and rocket motors) to reduce the speed. It is reaching the Martian surface at a speed of 5 miles per hour. Sixteen minutes later, to allow time for the dust to come out of the landing to settle, the spacecraft would deploy its solar panels.

NASA engineers know that the system can work. The InSight design is almost identical to the Phoenix Mars landing that was successfully established on Mars in 2008.

The landing place has the idyllic name Elysium Planitia, near the equator in the northern hemisphere. Mission scientists have described the region as a parking lot or "Kansas without corn."

That is intentional. Because the mission is not interested in rocky terrain or beautiful sunsets, the planners chose the flattest and safest place the spacecraft could land on.

How often does the soil tremble with the marsquakes? How big is the molten core inside Mars? How thick is the crust? How much heat is flowing above the Disintegration of radioactive elements in the core of the planet? These are some of the questions that mission scientists hope to answer.

InSight carries two main instruments: a dome-shaped package containing seismometers and a heat probe that is buried approximately 16 feet down. NASA has spent $ 814 million on InSight. In addition, France and Germany invested $ 180 million to build these major instruments.


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