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NASA’s InSight Lands Safely on Mars

"We are looking forward to higher-definition pictures to confirm this preliminary assessment," said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of InSight

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Though NASA’s InSight landed safely on the surface of Mars, but the spacecraft sits about 4 degrees tilted, the US space agency said.

Early last week, InSight touched down on a lava plain named Elysium Planitia on the Red Planet.

The vehicle sits tilted slightly in a shallow dust-and sand-filled impact crater known as a “hollow”. But, InSight has been engineered to operate on a surface with an inclination up to 15 degrees, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

“The science team had been hoping to land in a sandy area with few rocks since we chose the landing site, so we couldn’t be happier,” said InSight project manager Tom Hoffman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“There are no landing pads or runways on Mars, so coming down in an area that is basically a large sandbox without any large rocks should make instrument deployment easier and provide a great place for our mole to start burrowing,” he added.

Rockiness and slope grade factor into landing safety and are also important in determining whether InSight can succeed in its mission after landing.

According to the team, rocks and slopes could affect InSight’s ability to place its heat-flow probe — also known as “the mole” or HP3 — and ultra-sensitive seismometer, known as SEIS, on the surface of Mars.

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Early last week, InSight touched down on a lava plain named Elysium Planitia on the Red Planet. Flickr

But, a preliminary assessment of the photographs taken so far of the landing area suggests the area in the immediate vicinity of the lander is populated by only a few rocks.

Higher-resolution images are expected to begin arriving over the coming days, after InSight releases the clear-plastic dust covers that kept the optics of the spacecraft’s two cameras safe during landing.

“We are looking forward to higher-definition pictures to confirm this preliminary assessment,” said JPL’s Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of InSight.

“If these few images – with resolution-reducing dust covers on – are accurate, it bodes well for both instrument deployment and the mole penetration of our subsurface heat-flow experiment.”

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 Data downlinked from the lander also indicate that during its first full day on Mars, the solar-powered InSight spacecraft generated more electrical power than any previous vehicle on the surface of Mars, NASA noted.

Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 5, InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year plus 40 Martian days, or sols — the equivalent of nearly two Earth years. InSight will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed. (IANS)

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China To Launch its First Mars Probe in July This Year

In November last year, China unveiled an experiment simulating the process of a probe hovering, avoiding obstacles and descending to land on Mars

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This is the first time the country disclosed the launch month of its Mars exploration programme, according to the newspaper which cited sources from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Pixabay

China announced that it will launch its first Mars mission probe in July this year, China Youth Daily reported on Thursday.

This is the first time the country disclosed the launch month of its Mars exploration programme, according to the newspaper which cited sources from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

The Mars probe will be sent by the Long March-5 Y4 carrier rocket.

The Long March-5 Y4 rocket has recently completed a 100-second test for its high thrust hydrogen-oxygen engine, which is the last engine examination before the final assembly, Xinhua reported.

According to the CASC, China will send a probe to orbit and land and deploy a rover on Mars.

In 2020, the Long March-5 rocket will carry out several missions, including the Mars probe launch and the lunar sample return.

A total of 24 high thrust hydrogen-oxygen rocket engine tests will be conducted this year for these missions.

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 China announced that it will launch its first Mars mission probe in July this year, China Youth Daily reported on Thursday. Pixabay

In November last year, China unveiled an experiment simulating the process of a probe hovering, avoiding obstacles and descending to land on Mars.

The experiment was held on a trial ground, the largest one in Asia for test landing on extraterrestrial bodies, in Huailai county, Hebei province, reported Xinhua.

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How to safely land on Mars is one of the biggest challenges facing the mission.

The experiment simulated the gravity of Mars, about one-third of the gravity on Earth, to test the design of the lander. (IANS)