Mission Vision of Mars: Why is it so difficult to land on the red planet? – BBC News


It is the first spacecraft to explore the heart of Mars. And it's slated to land on the red planet this Monday at 19:53 GMT.

The mission InSight It has instruments that allow you to drill the surface of the planet to a depth never reached and measure the seismic movements of the red planet.

InSight, a NASA project with the participation of European partners, will be the first mission to place seismographs on Martian soil.

The probe left for Mars on May 5, and the landing on Monday – if it happens according to the plan – will be a spectacular achievement.

To land on Mars is so difficult that about two-thirds of the attempts failed.

Why is it so difficult to land on Mars?

The probe, which is six meters long and weighs 700 kilos, is scheduled to land in a flat region called Elyseum Planitia, which NASA describes as "the largest parking lot on Mars."

To descend into the right place, InSight must enter the Martian atmosphere within a window only 24 km by 10 km.

Entry into the atmosphere and descent to the surface requires very complex maneuvers.

Illustration showing the InSight probe with its instruments

The probe will enter the Martian atmosphere at a six times larger than a high-speed bullet and should decrease dramatically, he explained Jonathan Amos, Correspondent of the BBC.

A recent European attempt in 2016 ended with a probe colliding with the surface.

InSight will enter the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometers per hour and should reduce its speed to only 8 km per hour. This extreme deceleration must occur in a space of just under seven minutes.

One of the difficulties is that the atmosphere of Mars has only 1% of the density of the Earth's atmosphere, so there is little friction to reduce the speed of the ship.

NASA hopes to succeed with its combination of tools: a heat-resistant capsule, a parachute and a retro rocket to decelerate the probe.

The US space agency explained that when entering the Martian atmosphere, the capsule should withstand a temperature close to 1,500 degrees Celsius.

Illustration showing the history of missions to Mars

"We've done everything we can to succeed," he said. Julie Wertz Chen, one of the mission's scientists.

"But it's really, really hard to land on another planet."

"We dare not say we'll get it easily, because you never know the surprises that Mars can give you."

Martian earthquakes

InSight will do a first detailed x-ray of the interior of Mars and will remain on the red planet 728 days, about a Martian year or about two Earth years.

The name of the probe is an acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (Internal Exploration with Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport).

Illustration of the InSight probe in Martian soil
The probe has seismographs that will allow capture of Martian earthquakes.

The ship's seismometers, a Briton and a Frenchman, will try to capture Martian earthquakes produced by tectonic movements or meteorite impacts.

And studying seismic vibrations will allow you to study the inner rock layers of Mars from the crust, mantle, and core.

"An earthquake is almost like the flash of a light bulb," said the mission's top scientist, Bruce Banerdt.

"It illuminates the interior of the planet with seismic waves. the seismograph is like a camera that collects these waves to compose an image. Pixel by pixel We reconstruct a 3D representation of the interior of the planet. "

Illustration of the InSight probe in Martian soil
The ship will be the first to place seismographs on the Martian surface.

Another instrument will penetrate the Martian soil to a depth of five meters to measure how much heat escapes from the interior of the planet.

And the probe also carries a device developed by Spanish scientists, Twins, that will measure wind speed and temperature, as well as an instrument to measure variations in the rotation of the planet.

Mars and Earth

"Scientists are well acquainted with the interior structure of the Earth and have models to explain the beginning of the Solar System more than 4,500 million years ago," he explained. Jonathan Amos, a scientist at the BBC, who will accompany the landing of the center that monitors the operation, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, JPL by its acronym in English, in California.

Illustration of Mars Cube One flying over Mars
Two miniature ships called Mars Cube One, or MarCO, traveled separately to Mars behind the InSight and will transmit Earth data on the landing.

"But Earth is just a window into that history and Mars will allow us to better understand how a rocky planet shapes and evolves over thousands of years," added Amos.

InSight will help astronomers understand because the evolution of Mars and Earth was so different and what elements were essential for our planet to be habitable.

Two miniature spaceship calls together Mars Cube One, or March, which split from InSight shortly after launch, traveled to Mars as part of a separate NASA experiment.

MarCO is CubeSats' first deep space mission, a class of ships that uses miniature technology.

If Marco successfully reaches Mars, it will attempt to transmit InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and land, and the event can be watched live by NASA Television.

If the experiment works, it could be the beginning of a new type of data communication of space missions to Earth, according to the space agency.



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