Washington, Nov. 25 (ZENIT.org) .- Seven minutes of dizzying descent to the surface of Mars will culminate on November 26, the seven months of NASA's InSight mission to the Red Planet.
InSight will reach the top of the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometers per hour and will reduce its speed to only 8 kilometers per hour, before its three legs touch the Martian soil. This extreme slowdown has to happen in just under seven minutes.
Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor in the construction of the InSight mission, produced a video that explains in detail the characteristics of the descent to Mars and the complexity it represents for space engineers.
Due to the speed and friction with the Martian atmosphere, the InSight thermal shield will withstand temperatures of 1,500 degrees Celsius. With only three minutes remaining for landing on the perfect Elysium Planitia plain, the parachute will open, after which the heat shield will be highlighted and the three supporting legs of the new Martian laboratory will be deployed. Just one minute before touching the ground, the retro rockets will begin, slowing to a soft landing, scheduled for 19.54 GMT.
NASA calculates a beep signal at 20.01; sent directly from InSight to Earth, indicating that everything went well and that the probe works on the surface of Mars. Not before 20.04, and possibly the next day, the first image of InSight will be received from the surface of Mars. At 8:35 p.m., confirmation of the deployment of solar panels from the NASA Mars Odyssey spacecraft is due.
The mission of this ship is not to move like the Curiosity or Opportunity vehicles looking for traces of ancient or biological moisture, but to study the interior of Mars, fixed to the ground.
"Signatures of the planet's formation processes can be found only by detecting and studying hidden evidence well below the surface. It is InSight's task to study the deep interior of Mars, taking the planet's vital signs: its pulsation, temperature and reflexes," he explains. Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for InSight, said in a statement at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Taking these vital signs will help InSight's scientific team to remember the moment when the rocky planets of the Solar System formed.