NASA InSight Landing Explained by JPL Chief Engineer in Stunning Detail


This means the lander will not be expected to scour the surface of the Red Planet but rather take measurements of what is happening underground and towards the alien world's center.

The 363kg lander, which aimed for an afternoon touchdown, must go from 20,000 km/h to zero in six minutes flat as it penetrates the Martian atmosphere, deploys a supersonic parachute, fires its descent engines and - hopefully - lands on three legs. InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. And if you're in NY, you can stand with fellow New Yorkers, tourists and fully grown adults in Elmo suits to celebrate the moment in Times Square.

The signal from Mars will be delayed by 8.1 minutes, and by the time we receive the first signal of landing process initiation, the entire thing would have been over on Mars.

- At 11:40 am Pacific time (1940 GMT), the spacecraft separates from the cruise stage that carried it to Mars. But by the time InSight lands, we'll be beyond Mars.

"Indeed it is a heavenly plain, and it is very plain, but it is actually ideal", InSight project manager Tom Hoffman said, "It's safe, it's a great place not only to land, it's a great place to do the science that we want to do". "While I'm looking forward to those first images from the surface, I am even more eager to see the first data sets revealing what is happening deep below our landing pads".

The InSight lander is heading for the Elysium Planitia, just 600km away from Curiosity.

The interminable stretch from the moment a spacecraft hits the Martian atmosphere to the second it touches down on the Red Planet's rusty surface is what scientists call "the seven minutes of terror".

From NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, engineers have a pretty good handle on rock abundance in the landing region, which is fairly low, so they don't expect InSight to drop on a boulder.

Entry descent and landing for the In Sight spacecraft
Enlarge Entry descent and landing for the In Sight

InSight is scheduled to reach the surface of Mars approximately 3 p.m. EST November 26, and you can watch the event live on NASA Television, the NASA website as well as their official social media platforms.

EARLIER: A NASA spacecraft's six-month journey to Mars is nearing its dramatic grand finale. They are experimental, however, and NASA is not counting on this data.

NASA made one final course correction late Sunday.

Germany is in charge of InSight's mole, while France is in charge of the seismometer. The heat probe will measure how much heat is escaping from the planet, and how quickly-a clue to when it was most volcanically active.

It will take two to three months for InSight to start conducting science, explained Elizabeth Barrett, science system engineer for the mission.

Philippe Lognonne, the principal investigator on the SEIS, said he was "relieved and very happy" that the probe had landed intact and online. This, in turn, can help us understand how rocky planets formed. "We have done everything we can think to make sure we are going to be successful, but you just never know what is going to happen", he said.

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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