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NASA prepares for probe landing capable of studying earthquakes on Mars | Contact Us | News

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NASA is in the countdown for the landing of the Mars InSight probe on Mars next month of $ 993 million and the first capable of hearing earthquakes and studying the inner workings of another rocky planet.

The unmanned spacecraft was launched almost seven months ago and traveled about 482 million kilometers.

Part of his mission is to report efforts to send human explorers to the red planet one day, something NASA hopes to accomplish in the 2030s.

The spacecraft's landing on Mars would be the first since 2012, when NASA explorer Curiosity landed on the surface and analyzed the rocks for signs of life on the planet, now frozen and dry.

InSight must survive the difficult entry into the atmosphere of the red planet, traveling at a speed of 19,800 kilometers per hour and rapidly reducing speed to just 8 miles per hour.

The entry, descent and landing phase will begin at 7:47 pm GMT on Monday. Half jokingly, at NASA they allude to this stage as the "six and a half minutes of terror."

Of the 43 missions launched on Mars, only 18 arrived on the red planet, a success rate of about 40%, and all came from the United States.

"Going to Mars is very, very difficult," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Directorate of Science Missions.

"The exciting part is that we are building the success of the best team that has ever landed on this planet, which is the NASA team with their contractors and their collaborators."

French seismograph

The name InSight derives from "Internal exploration using seismic investigations, geodesy and heat transport".

The spacecraft stops at waist height, one meter, and once its solar panels are installed, it will extend for almost 6 meters.

With full fuel load, the InSight weighs over 360 kg, almost the same as a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Its central instrument is an earthquake detection seismograph that was made by the French Space Agency (CNES).

"This is NASA's only mission conceived around a foreign instrument," Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of CNES, told AFP.

For that reason, he added, "it is a fundamental mission for the United States, France" and to improve understanding of Mars.

The six earthquake sensors on board are so sensitive they should reveal the smallest tremors on Mars, such as the slight attraction of its moon Phobos, the impacts of meteors and possibly the evidence of volcanic activity.

Seismology has taught mankind much about the Earth's formation for about 4.5 billion years, but much of Earth's evidence has been lost with the recycling of the crust, driven by plate tectonics. This process does not exist on Mars.

The ship also has a self-hammered probe that can excavate to a depth of 3 to 5 meters to provide the first accurate measurement of ground temperatures on Mars and the amount of heat escaping from inside.

The InSight landing will be cushioned by a parachute. Your heat shield will help slow the ship and protect it from the friction of entering the Mars atmosphere.

The landing site is a flat area called Elysium Planitia, which NASA called "the largest parking lot on Mars".

NASA will know in minutes if the landing was successful or not, but will have to wait more than five hours to confirm the deployment of the equipment. That would be at 20:04 GMT on Monday. (I)

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