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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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NASA, tissue
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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.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
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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Building City on Mars Could Cost up to $10 Trillion: Elon Musk

SpaceX is building “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars

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Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Wikimedia Commons

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has not stopped at lofty talks of colonising Mars. He has even estimated the cost of having a self-sustaining civilization on the Red Planet which is “between $100 billion and $10 trillion”.

Musk tweeted his estimates of building a city on Mars in response to a question posed by the Twitter handle @marstronauts.

So according to the estimate by Musk, building a city on Mars could cost anywhere between 10 per cent of the US’ 2019 military budget and three times the the country’s 2018 tax revenue, Futurism.com reported on Tuesday.

Musk calculated the approximate future cost of sending a minimum payload to Mars “to nearest order of magnitude”, at $100,000 per tonne.

Musk, Neuralink, Brain
Not many people know that Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk owns a startup called Neuralink that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces. Pixabay

So if building a self-sustaining city on Mars requires a million tonnes of cargo, the cost would be around $100 billion, he calculated.

Musk earlier advocated the need of a “backup” planet.

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Speaking in an interview with Axios in November 2018, Musk said that that there is “70 per cent chance that he will go to Mars”, despite a “good chance” of him not surviving either on the way or after landing.

SpaceX is building “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars. (IANS)