One week before the next Mars mission is due to land, NASA has chosen the landing site for its next next Mars mission. While this is not the first time a US -built spacecraft will visit Mars, the InSight would be the first to conduct underground exploration. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander created to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.
An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars. Landing on Mars is extremely complicated-only around 40 percent of missions sent to Mars are successful. So far we are in good shape.
A sizable equatorial plain, Tom Hoffman, InSight's project manager, hopes it's "like a Walmart parking lot in Kansas".
"Mars had conditions more similar to Earth early on - in the first billion years - so what may have been happening in our solar system that allowed life to start on this planet may also be evident on Mars itself". Scientists expect Mars 2020 to yield at least five different types of rock, including the kinds of clays and carbonates that are most likely to preserve chemical biosignatures.
Unlike other ventures, the lander will remain in a fixed position. Instead, it will use a number of instruments and its seven-foot-long robotic arm to drill about 16 feet below the surface.
NASA Picks Landing Spot for 2020 Mars Rover
24 hours before the InSight's atmospheric entry, descent, and landing, the NASA team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will make their final correction maneuvers. It'll also have experiments to test technologies that future astronauts will need, such as producing oxygen from Mars' thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere, and the equipment that's needed to extract and store samples for future missions to pick up. It will largely prevent it from being vaporized or burned.
However, InSight has a stronger parachute, better avionics, and an improved heat shield - which is created to take a beating from possible dust storms - to help counter these challenges.
InSight's success does not depend on MarCO being able to relay communications.
Next Monday the probe NASA needs to reach the red planet's surface - it will be approximately 22:00 Kyiv time.
From then on, following a safe landing, the lander will begin its investigation into the seismic nature of Mars.
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