On 26 October, Mars will get a new robot friend over: NASA’s InSight lander, which will have to go through a very tough task – the descent and landing on Mars is quite a harrowing experience!
The lander will land north of the Martian equator after its seven-month-long journey. NASA launched InSight and two Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats – known as Wall-E and EVE on May 5 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
InSight is solar-powered, and it will descend into the Martian atmosphere at 14,100 mph (22,700 km/h). To slow that descent and safely reach the surface, a parachute will be deployed. There are also 12 descent engines that will help the lander touch down safely 6 minutes after it entered the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
InSight – “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport”
The lander will land on a plain called Elysium Planitia at only 370 miles (600 kilometers) from Gale Crater, where NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in August 2012.
On 24 October, NASA wrote that the area is “as flat and boring a spot as any on Mars,” and that the team behind the lander chose a safe place to land because at Elysium “there’s less to crash into, fewer rocks to land on and lots of sunlight to power the spacecraft.”
Moreover, the equator will also allow the lander get as much solar power as it needs to perform its operations, added NASA, saying that “InSight doesn’t use much power and should have plenty of sunlight at Mars’ equator means it can provide lots of data for scientists to study.”
The lander will burrow a heat probe into the Mars soil and use some seismometers to reveal some new information on the internal structure and composition of the Red Planet.
InSight will also use the communications gear to perform a radio-science experiment and track the wobbles in the planet’s rotational axis to find out more about the size and composition of the planet’s core. The lander’s mission should last about two earth-years and help scientists learn how rocky planets have formed and evolved.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.