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InSight Spacecraft of NASA Reaches Halfway to Mars

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November

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NASA’s InSight spacecraft that is en route to Mars, has passed the halfway mark to its destination and all its instruments are working well, the US space agency said.

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The spacecraft, which crossed the halfway mark on August 6 is expected to land on Mars on November 26 to study the Red Planet’s deep interior, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

The spacecraft has now covered 277 million km since its launch 107 days ago and in another 98 days, it will travel another 208 million km and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region.

Earlier the lander’s launch and landing were scheduled around Mars’ closest approach to Earth that occurred on July 31.

However, it was delayed by the Martian storm that has engulfed the Planet and has cut off communication with another NASA robot, the Mars rover Opportunity.

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InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. (IANS)

NASA engineers used this long travel time to plan, activate and check spacecraft subsystems vital to cruise, landing and surface operations, including the highly sensitive science instruments, the statement said.

The instruments aboard the spacecraft include a seismometer, which will be used to detect quakes on Mars, and a self-hammering probe that will measure the amount of heat escaping from the planet’s interior.

It also has cameras to take a “selfie” of the mission’s equipment.

Also Read- Facebook Aims to Make MRI Scans Faster Using AI With New York University

“If you are an engineer on InSight, that first glimpse of the heat shield blanket, harness tie-downs and cover bolts is a very reassuring sight as it tells us our Instrument Context Camera is operating perfectly. The next picture we plan to take with this camera will be of the surface of Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November. (IANS)

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Soyuz Rocket’s Crew Say That They Trust The Rocket ,Post Previous Failure

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly.

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From left: CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques, Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko‎ and U.S. astronaut Anne McClain pose in a mock-up of a Soyuz space craft at Russian Space Training Center in Star City, Russia. VOA

A U.S. astronaut said on Thursday she had full confidence in the safety of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket that will blast a three-person crew into space next month in the first such launch since a rocket failure.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and U.S. and Canadian astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are due to embark for the International Space Station on Dec. 3 after a similar launch on Oct. 11 ended in an emergency landing.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
Head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin addresses the media upon the arrival of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague at Baikonur airport, Kazakhstan. VOA

Two minutes into that launch, a rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague to abort their mission and hurtle back to Earth in a capsule that landed in the Kazakh steppe. The two were unharmed.

Speaking at a news conference in Star City near Moscow, McClain said that occasional failures were inevitable, but that the mishap with the Soyuz-FG in October had demonstrated the reliability of its emergency safety mechanisms.

“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said at the conference also attended by her colleagues Kononenko and Saint-Jacques.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
A view shows the Soyuz capsule that carried U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin, after it made an emergency landing, near the city of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan. VOA

“A lot of people called it an accident, or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of it not being safe, but for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home,” McClain told reporters.

Also Read: A Successful Emergency Landing For US-Russian Space Rocket

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Soviet era-cosmodrome at Baikonur from where McClain, Saint Jacques and Kononenko are due to launch.

Ahead of their mission, an unmanned rocket carrying cargo is due to launch on Nov 16. in what will be the first Soyuz-FG take-off from Baikonur since the mishap. (VOA)