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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 Partnering with 10 Start-ups to Develop New Technologies For Space

"Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,"

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NASA researchers have created the atmosphere of a super-hot planet outside our solar system, here on Earth. Pixabay

NASA is inviting applications from start-ups to take part in a three-month pilot programme to develop new technologies for space.

Applications will be accepted till April 7 and a total of 10 companies will be selected for the programme, the US space agency said.

The accelerator programme will focus on technologies that can be applied to space — including geospatial analytics, digital design coupled to advanced manufacturing, autonomous systems, applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

NASA
NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. VOA

“We want to assist these companies in developing their own technologies and becoming commercial successes. NASA will also benefit by collaborating with these companies,” said Tom Cwik, Manager of the Space Technology Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Based in Los Angeles, the accelerator programme begins on July 15. After developing their concepts and business plans over a three-month period, the teams will then pitch their results to the NASA community, co-sponsors and private investors at a demo day in October, NASA said.

Also Read- Intel May Introduce New Processors in Q2

“Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,” said Cwik.

“It’s incumbent upon us to learn from developments in industry and contribute our vast expertise in technology as we prepare to use them in our future missions,” Cwik added. (IANS)