InSight lander: Nasa probe approaches Mars

InSight lander: Nasa probe approaches Mars

You can expect to see a lot of interviews and background videos during the early part of the coverage, leading up to shots of anxious engineers milling around at JPL's Mission Control as the appointed time nears.

Well the big day is finally here!

NASA is now focused on its latest Mars probe, InSight, which is scheduled to touch down on the planet's surface Monday. It is expected - within the course of less than seven minutes - to "hit the top of the Martian atmosphere" at some 12,300 miles per hour before slowing down to 5 miles per hour and softly landing on Mars, according to the NASA news release. Only around 40 percent of missions sent to Mars have been successful, but InSight uses tried-and-tested technology to increase its chances of making it on to the surface in one piece.

On Monday, NASA engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab will be on pins and needles, waiting to see if the InSight spacecraft touches down safely on Mars.

NASA's Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft has reached the vicinity of Mars and is on its way to a soft touchdown on the surface of the Red Planet on November 26.

What's that going to be like? Still, this second largest volcanic region on Mars is an ideal place for InSight to land because of the science it is created to perform. Perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of kit that InSight will call upon, however, is its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe.

But the parachute won't carry InSight all the way to the surface.

But when the first signal arrives at 2001 GMT, hopefully showing that the lander set itself down, intact and upright, "I am totally going to unleash my inner four-year-old at that point", he said.

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At 3:01 pm ET, InSight should send a signal to let scientists on Earth know that it's alive and well. It marked the first time a Mars lander has ever been launched from the West Coast. Unfortunately, though, we aren't quite up to that level of technology.

The final major instrument on the mission, RISE, will precisely track the location of the lander to determine how much Mars's North Pole "wobbles" as the planet orbits the sun.

InSight's 6-foot robotic arm will be used to place the instruments on the Martian surface, where they will be calibrated.

"It'll be sending back data in real time", Grover says, "and the MarCO spacecraft will be helping with that - relaying the data". The Rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021. "And we're looking to take humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s". The InSight spacecraft was built near Denver by Lockheed Martin.

These two, which have been following InSight all the way to Mars, will pick up the lander's radio signals and boost them back to Earth. During that time, engineers will monitor the environment and photograph the terrain in front of the lander.

InSight will first touch the atmosphere six minutes and 45 seconds before landing. We simply haven't done anything like the MarCO mission before, so the results are still uncertain!

The terror? Well, as NASA engineers have explained, when it comes to Mars landings they often need everything to be in ideal sequence during that tiny timeframe for things to go right.

"Previous missions haven't gone more than skin-deep at Mars", Sue Smrekar, the InSight mission's deputy principal investigator, noted.

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