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NASA sending first-ever mission to study Mars’ deep interior

In April, the spacecraft will be mounted to its rocket, connections between them will be checked and the launch team will go through a final training

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In a bid to study the deep interior of the Red Planet and find traces of how it was formed, NASA is all set to send a first-ever such mission to Mars.

Scheduled to launch on May 5, NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) — a stationary lander — will be dedicated to explore Mars’ deep interior.

Scientists have earlier found layers of ice on the surface of Mars. Wikimedia Commons

It also will be the first NASA mission since the Apollo moon landings to place a seismometer, a device that measures quakes, on the soil of another planet, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

Bruce Banerdt is the principal investigator for InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

“In some ways, InSight is like a scientific time machine that will bring back information about the earliest stages of Mars’ formation 4.5 billion years ago,” Banerdt said.

“It will help us learn how rocky bodies form, including Earth, its moon, and even planets in other solar systems,” he added.

InSight carries a suite of sensitive instruments to gather data and, unlike a rover mission, these instruments require a stationary lander from which they can carefully be placed on and below the Martian surface.

Also Read: NASA’s 2020 Mars rover to have 23 ‘eyes’

Looking deep into Mars will let scientists understand how different its crust, mantle and core are from Earth. Several European partners have contributed instruments and key components to the InSight mission. France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales led a multinational team that built an ultra-sensitive seismometer for detecting marsquakes.

The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) developed a thermal probe that can bury itself up to 16 feet underground and measure heat flowing from inside the planet. “InSight is a truly international space mission,” said Tom Hoffman, project manager at JPL.

India has become only the 4th country in the world to successfully complete a Mars mission. Wikimedia Commons
Mars is a subject of intrigue for NASA. Wikimedia Commons

“Our partners have delivered incredibly capable instruments that will make it possible to gather unique science after we land,” he added. InSight currently is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California undergoing final preparation before launch.

In April, the spacecraft will be mounted to its rocket, connections between them will be checked and the launch team will go through a final training. “This next month will be exciting,” Banerdt said. “We’ve got some final work to do, but we’re almost ready to go to Mars.” IANS

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Russian Rocket
Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

NASA, rocket
Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)