For the first time since 2012, the US space agency Nasa wants to land a robot on Mars (around 9 pm Swiss time) on Mars. The maneuver can be watched online live:
After a journey of approximately 485 million kilometers, the spacecraft launched in May will launch "InSight" on the Elysium Planitia plain north of the equator of Mars on the red planet. On board are scientific instruments that researchers use to study the interior of Mars. Strongly involved in this is ETH Zurich.
More recently, Nasa has successfully launched the "Curiosity" rover on Mars in 2012. Landings on the Red Planet are considered extremely difficult – only about 40 percent of all previously launched Mars missions in the world have succeeded according to NASA.
It can go very wrong
"InSight" weighs 360 pounds and completed its seven-month journey to Earth's nearby planet at up to 10,000 miles per hour. After entering the Martian atmosphere, the flying object must descend with the help of brake missiles and a parachute. The researchers control the robot from a control center in Pasadena, California. There will also be Domenico Giardini, from ETH Zurich, who coordinated the participation of ETH research groups in the InSight mission.
Giardini is confident about the landing: he is not nervous, he said. "But you have to accept that a lot can go wrong." This is also clear in the following explanatory video. In it, Rob Manning, chief engineer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explains the traps of landing on Mars:
The planned landing site is located in a region that is largely flat and free of larger rocks and rocks. Previous Mars missions have not yet explored the land area. The still active NASA "Curiosity" rover is located at a distance of 500 kilometers – and is therefore the closest to it. Unlike it, however, "InSight" will not move, but will remain at the landing site.
With many scientific instruments, "InSight" (the name of the provincial probe means "Exploration of the Interior using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport") will investigate Mars and, above all, learn more about the structure of the planet and the dynamics below its surface. Once the probe is secure, the search for appropriate locations for the meters brought in begins. A robotic arm will lift you to the ideal position.
Marsquakes on the trail
One such device is a seismograph designed to measure the impacts of Marsquakes and meteors. ETH Zurich seismologists will be the first to see the data. "We never did these measurements on Mars," Giardini emphasized. The first results may be in January. If all goes well then.
Using these seismic measurements, the researchers hope to clarify some unresolved issues about the interior of the red planet. For example, about the size of the core and whether it is liquid or solid. The more tidal or meteor impacts they record, the clearer the image of the interior of the planet. "We expect an earthquake on Mars every two weeks," says Giardini.
Also on board is a "Mars Mole" which is pounding on the planet's ground. The robot, officially known as HP3 ("Heat Flow Package and Physical Properties"), was developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The 40 cm conical device will penetrate to a depth of five meters and the heat flow will measure.