Tuesday July 23, 2019
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NASA’s Insight To Attempt Landing On The Red Planet

The lander is expected to touch down on Mars about 3 p.m. EST (2000 UTC) on Monday.

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NASA, Insight, Martian Wind
NASA’s InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region in Mars’ northern hemisphere, undergoes launch preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. VOA

After traveling hundreds of millions of miles through space, NASA’s latest Mars probe will arrive Monday at the Red Planet.

Scientists have carefully chosen where they want the probe, called InSight, to land, selecting a large volcanic plain named Elysium Planitia. They say the site has few rocks and less chance of wind gusts that could potentially knock over the lander.

The spacecraft will take a crucial six minutes to enter Mars’ atmosphere, descend and land. During that time, InSight will decelerate from an initial speed of 19,300 kmh (12,000 mph) down to just 8 kmh (5 mph) when it touches down. To aid the landing, scientists have equipped InSight with a parachute, descent thrusters and shock-absorbing legs.

If all goes well, InSight will make the eighth successful landing on Mars.

Mars, Insight
This is an illustration showing a simulated view of NASA’s InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars. This view shows the underside of the spacecraft. VOA

“My heart is beating inside of my chest like a drum,” NASA project manager Tom Hoffman said Wednesday during a news conference about the planned landing.

Scientists say they are trying to determine whether the craft needs a small nudge to put it in the proper place for landing. Since InSight launched May 5, scientists have made four small tweaks to its path to ensure it arrives on target. Engineers were able to skip an additional nudge because the other maneuvers went so smoothly, and they say they might also be able to skip the final adjustment scheduled for Sunday.

By the time it lands, InSight will have traveled 484 million kilometers (300.7 million miles). However, once the lander is on the Martian surface, it cannot move, as it is not a rover. Scientists say it is critical that InSight land in the correct location, because wherever it lands is where it will stay.

NASA says the landing site has been particularly quiet in recent weeks, with few storms.

“We’re expecting a very plain day on Mars for the landing, and we’re very happy about that,” said Rob Grover who is overseeing the landing phase.

NASA Insight
A visitor records herself at a NASA display at the Lompoc Airport before the launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s InSight Mars lander, which lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, VOA

Once landed, Insight has a unique mission to explore Mars’ interior. While other missions have sought to better understand the planet’s surface and atmosphere, this is the first to focus exclusively on what is under Mars’ surface.

The $850 million InSight mission is planned to last about two years and will try to gather an array of information, including Mars’ below-ground temperature and seismic activity, as well as to carry out an underground mapping project.

Insight is armed with a crane, heat probe and seismometer and is able to hammer 5 meters (16.4 feet) below the surface.

Scientists are hoping the mission will help answer questions about the composition and evolution of the planet and whether Mars was formed from the same mixture of materials as Earth.

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

Once InSight touches down, it will wait for 16 minutes to allow the dust that it kicked up to settle down again. Then it will deploy solar arrays, a critical step that will allow the lander to power itself for the next two years. InSight also has a battery system, but that will only last one day.

Also Read: NASA is Concerned Over The Strains of Toilet Microbes on ISS

The lander is expected to touch down on Mars about 3 p.m. EST (2000 UTC) on Monday. Scientists hope to know quickly whether the landing was successful but say if communication with the spacecraft is delayed, they might not know InSight’s status for several hours or even days.

NASA’s website will be broadcasting news of InSight’s approach and landing all day Monday. (VOA)

Next Story

NASA Asks American Aerospace Companies to Offer Detailed Ideas for Future Lunar Lander

NASA called the request for input a "major step" forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis

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NASA, American, Aerospace
FILE - NASA's Space Launch System mobile launcher rolls on a crawler-transporter for months of testing before the launch of Artemis 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 27, 2019. VOA

U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024, an American objective that was reconfirmed on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

NASA called the request for input a “major step” forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis — who in Greek mythology was Apollo’s twin sister.

The space agency published documents explaining in detail what it is looking for in a lunar lander that will bring the two astronauts, one a woman, to the moon’s south pole, where they will stay for six-and-a-half days.

In May, 11 companies including sector mainstays Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were picked to lead feasibility studies and develop prototypes by November. Also on the list were newcomers such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

NASA, American, Aerospace
FILE – Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. VOA

That same month, Blue Origin unveiled its lander project, Blue Moon.

Now, NASA has provided dozens of pages of specifications that must be met in terms of onboard electronics, communications, and spacesuits.

Any company can reply, not just the 11 shortlisted earlier in the year.

“On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of #Apollo11, we’ve just issued a draft solicitation asking US companies to help us develop the 21st century human landing system that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

Also Read- US to Expand and Speed Up Deportations of Migrants

Behind schedule

After receiving the responses, NASA is expected to make a decision in a matter of months as to which company will build the lander and how.

It will be the equivalent of the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969.

NASA, American, Aerospace
U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024. Pixabay

One important difference will be that the lander will berth at a mini moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway, as a kind of port between Earth and the moon. That will allow for the lander to be reused and refueled.

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For now, the Artemis mission is behind schedule, mainly due to delays in the construction of the huge, single-use Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is primarily being made by Boeing. (VOA)