Sunday , April 18 2021

No margin for error, the arrival of the ship InSight to Mars

CABO CAÑAVERAL, Florida, USA (AP) – The ship InSight gives NASA will enter the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speed, and then brake to rest gently and safely on the plains of the red planet. The success of this will depend on your performance in the last six minutes of a six-month journey.

After having everything planned perfectly for each step of the route, flight controllers will not be able to make any changes from what happens on Monday in the final stage, almost 160 million kilometers (100 million miles) away. In between Mars and the Earth There is an eight-minute delay to receive each transmitted message.

"When we hear something, it will all be over," he said. Tom Hoffman from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the NASA, in charge of the project. "You happened or did not happen."

Any little last-minute adjustment should be completed an hour and a half before the spacecraft touches the surface, said Rob Grover, an engineer who heads the team responsible for the descent.

"All our efforts to ensure we succeed are carried out in previous years," he explained.

Six minutes before the arrival, InSight will enter 19,800 kilometers per hour (12,300 miles per hour), penetrating the upper part of the Martian atmosphere, about 114 kilometers (77 miles) above the surface.

The atmospheric friction forces the ship to reduce its speed, but also generates heat. The InSight heat shield is capable of supporting 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,700 Fahrenheit). When you are 11 miles off the ground, your parachute will open as the ship moves to 1,400 km / h (860 mph).

With just three minutes left, InSight will discard its heat shield and position its three landing feet. With its speed now at 215 km / h (134 mph), it will remove its parachute and its rear shell one kilometer (less than one mile) from the surface.

Almost immediately, its 12 descent engines will light up to further reduce its speed and keep it away from the rear shell, which will still be falling under the parachute. You will have only 45 seconds remaining. The spacecraft will rotate on itself so that its solar panels extend east and west to land on the Martian surface, and its arm robotic toward the south. Now it will be traveling at 27 km / h (17 mph) and at a height of 50 meters (164 feet).

Fifteen seconds earlier, InSight expects to touch Mars at 8 km / h (5 mph) on a plain near the equator called the Elysium Planitia. There he will perform various scientific tasks throughout a Martian year, equivalent to two of Earth. During the night temperatures can reach 96 degrees Celsius, because it is the winter season.

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