Mars InSight spacecraft nears Red Planet


Insight, the latest Mars probe was built to analyze seismic activity on the red planet by drilling under its surface that will help scientists understand the early evolution of Mars and other planets in the solar system.

A pair of mini satellites trailing InSight since their May liftoff provided practically real-time updates of the spacecraft's supersonic descent through the reddish skies. But InSight is heavier than Phoenix, and its landing site is 1.5 kilometers higher, which means there is less atmosphere to slow the spacecraft.

But the US has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades.

The Lander had originally been scheduled to blast off in March 2016, but NASA suspended its launch preparations when a vacuum leak was found in the craft's prime science instrument. It's also taking over NY with the landing set to be shown on big screens in Times Square.

While it takes eight minutes seven seconds for a radio signal to reach earth from Mars and the entire landing sequence from entry to landing takes approximately seven minutes, earth viewers will still be awaiting entry over a minute after the actual touchdown occurs. Even when viewed from Earth without a telescope, Mars appears reddish in color as it hangs amid the stars - in fact, its bloody appearance inspired ancient astronomers to name the planet after the Roman god of war, according to NASA. Up to now, the success rate at the red planet was only 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the U.S., Russian Federation and other spacefaring countries since 1960.

The NASA InSight Lander has landed successfully on Mars.

Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight's project manager, added:"Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving [to prepare], but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort". The lander will be broadcasting information during entry, descent and landing in the UHF band to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which can not simultaneously receive in one band and transmit in another.

InSight will be landing at Elysium Planitia, called "the biggest parking lot on Mars" by astronomers.

Unlike Opportunity and Curiosity, the rovers that trundle across Mars in search of interesting rocks, InSight is created to sit and listen. France and Germany have contributed about $180m for SEIS and HP³ respectively. From there, it can take Mars's temperature to determine how much heat is still flowing out of the body of the planet.

NASA officials say it will take two to three months for the main instruments to be deployed and put into operation.

This is the first time NASA has used a robotic arm to place instruments on the surface of Mars, and the agency wants to be careful. The Rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021. "I'm going to unleash my inner 4-year-old on you, so be careful", he said. Its mission is to study the interior of the planet. "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.

Banerdt said InSight's two-year mission would be long enough to dedect a suitable number of marsquakes to get enough data to answer their major scientific questions.