NASA's Insight Mission: When will it land and why should we care?

NASA Looking Toward Manned Mission To Mars 'Sometime In The 2030s'

NASA Looking Toward Manned Mission To Mars 'Sometime In The 2030s'

If all goes to plan, the first NASA lander to explore the interior of another planet will land on Mars at 3 p.m. ET Monday.

Indeed, by the time word of touchdown came from space just after 3 p.m. EST, InSight was already well settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the flat-as-a-parking-lot plain that NASA was aiming for.

The robotic geologist - created to explore Mars' insides, surface to core - must go from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and, hopefully, lands on three legs.

"Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort".

While the landing was no-doubt followed by an intense settling quiet on distant Mars, it was quite a different story here on Earth.

The craft will land in the same manner as the Viking spacecraft before it, using the friction of a heat shield and then a parachute to slow down from hypersonic speeds as much as possible with atmospheric drag.

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InSight is equipped with two primary instruments: the Seismic Experiment Interior Structure - SEIS - seismometer, provided by the French space agency, CNES, and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe - HP3 - provided by the German Aerospace Agency, DLR. InSight will hit the atmosphere of Mars at 2:47 p.m. EST, and roughly seven minutes later it should be on the surface. "And we're going to stay vigilant".

InSight's third investigation relies on the lander's radio system.

About 45 seconds before InSight lands, the probe will drop out of the shell and ignite its landing rockets. Let us know in the comments.

It's an exciting mission for NASA and scientists the world over, but before the research can start the lander needs to make it down on to the surface of Mars. "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 broadcast will most likely feature commentators from NASA interspersed with some mock-up landing footage.

InSight's science mission won't begin right away.

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InSight's 6-foot robotic arm will be used to place the instruments on the Martian surface, where they will be calibrated. "Knowing there is so much going on here in space and Mars is exciting for my son and us", said Tess Peterson.

The InSight, which is being managed by Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is scheduled to land on Mars at around noon Pacific time. The process mirrors selecting a landing site, and both endeavors have been led by the same JPL scientist, Matthew Golombek.

The suite of geophysical instruments on InSight sounds like a doctor's bag, giving Mars its first "checkup" since it formed. If and when it arrives on Mars it will drill down into the surface of the planet, to measure the internal temperature. 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.

The 800-pound (360-kilogram) InSight is stationary with three legs and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year.

Next up is NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which is modeled on Curiosity and planned to launch in summer 2021 for a February 2021 landing.

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