News – NASA InSight sticks to landing after diving into the surface of Mars


OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's New in Space – The Biggest News Coming to Earth from Space

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist / Science Writer

Monday, November 26, 2018, at 4:25 p.m. – NASA's InSight landing module is now safe on the surface of Mars, after a daredevil plunge into the rarefied atmosphere of the planet. With the scathing part of the mission, what comes next?

At 2:54 p.m. On Monday, November 26, after six months traveling through space, NASA's Mars InSight module landed on the Red Planet, landing on a wide, flat plain known as the Elysium Planitia.

While the landing was undoubtedly followed by an intense stillness on distant Mars, it was a very different story here on Earth.

At the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mission Control and the neighboring von Karman Auditorium, the voices of engineers, scientists, media representatives, and social media participants banded together in an explosion of applause!

According to NASA, everything about the landing went perfectly, as planned, with the lander and the Marcos cubes functioning properly.

Immediately after the landing, InSight's first act was to take a picture of the landscape immediately in front of it. Although it is a grainy image, partially blocked by the dust cover of the camera, it serves as the first point of reference for the mission team, to bring it all together.

The first image returned by NASA InSight, from Elysium Planitia, post-landing. Image taken by InSight's Instrument Context Camera (ICC), located in the belly of the probe. The dark spots on the image are dust particles trapped in the dust cover of the camera. In addition to these, the dust cover bolts are visible along the bottom edge, one of the probe feet in the lower right corner and a large Martian rock is visible nearby. In the distance is the horizon of Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Now, after years of development and months of tracking its charge through space, it was finally safe on the surface of Mars, ready to proceed with its groundbreaking science.

Continue watching: NASA continues its live coverage of the InSight landing with a press conference at 5:00 p.m. ET (2 pm)


With InSight on Mars, what next?

While the lander is safe and ready to go, there are a few steps he needs to take before he can start collecting data and sending them back to Earth. Some are relatively small, such as removing dust covers from your cameras, to take better pictures of the environment. There are, however, some important steps that InSight will take, going forward.

Step 1: Open Your Solar Panels

During the landing, it is possible that InSight landing jets have raised a lot of dust! Due to a global dust storm, which has only recently declined, dust has been redistributed on almost the entire surface of Mars. So it is not known exactly how much dust is on the surface where the probe just landed. It may be relatively dust-free due to dust normally transported elsewhere, or more dust may have been deposited during the storm.

To ensure that InSight does not have its solar panels immediately covered by the dust accumulated on the landing, it waits a full 16 minutes before extending and unfolding its panels. This gives the powder enough time to clean, so InSight can gather as much initial energy as possible.

The mission team says that even if only one panel implant, they can still carry out the mission, but if neither of the two deploy for some reason is when the probe will have problems. Without energy from the Sun, your battery will run out quickly and you will lose contact with InSight.

NASA will know that InSight has deployed its solar panels as soon as the Mars Odyssey orbiter overhangs the probe's location, takes photos of it and sends those images back, about five hours after landing.

Step 2: Transfer the SIX to the ground

While InSight will have its solar panels installed right after landing, putting your instruments online and collecting data will take much longer.

SIX, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, is the InSight marsquake detector and is currently resting on the ground landing deck. In order to do your job properly, however, the SIX has to be placed directly on the Martian surface.

Since this is InSight's core mission, the team needs to be very careful about that.

It is anticipated that it will take about two weeks to test the InSight systems and their actuator arm before sending the commands for transferring the SIX from the landing platform to the ground. After that, he will continue to pick up the Wind and Thermal Shield (WTS), a white dome with a chain mail and a scalemail fringe on the bottom, which will be placed on the SIX, to insulate it from the surrounding environment.

Step 3: Deploy the heat probe

The other primary scientific experiment of this mission is the Heat Probe – a & # 39; mole & # 39; which will dig your way deep below the surface, to give us an idea of ​​what the temperature profile is like on the planet.

Like the SIX, however, this instrument is also currently stored on the landing deck. So when the InSight team is ready, they will place the Heat Probe on the floor, probably after the seismic instrument is in position.


It will take weeks for InSight to begin its core work and, months to years, for the mission to get solid science results on the interior of Mars, but that is the kind of mission we signed with this probe. The work, now that it has reached Mars, is to sit still on the surface and just listen to the planet.

The mission is far from boring, however. The most immediate results we'll get from InSight will be from your cameras – how to take panoramic photos of the ground around it, using your camera belly, and selfies from your arm cameras – and very soon, we'll begin to see the results of your camera . Continuous time monitoring station!

Wait for more updates on this historic mission!


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