NASA Mars mission UPDATE: InSight probe hits halfway mark to Red Planet | Science | News


The InSight probe spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with Mars on November 26.

As of Monday, August 20, the spacecraft has already covered a whopping 172 million miles (277 million km) since launching more than 100 days ago on May 5.

InSight has already reached the halfway mark to Mars but still has another 97 days and 129 million miles (208 million km) to go.

The NASA spacecraft will touch down in the Martian Elysium Planitia region in three months, where it will perform a subsurface exploration.

The InSight probe is the world’s very first Martian lander designed to explore the Red Planet below its dusty plains.

Unlike the Curiosity Rover, which can drill into Martian soil and rock, the InSight robotic lander will deploy a sensitive seismic tool and heat probe to delve deep into Mars’ interior.

Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of InSight, said: “We have been using the spacecraft’s radio since launch day, and our conversations with InSight have been very cordial, so we are good to go with RISE as well.”

RISE is one of the Mars probe’s main tools – the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE).

The other instruments include the quake detecting Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) designed to burrow into the ground.

The HP3 will dig down to a depth of about five metres in a hammering, “mole-like” fashion.

All of these instruments combined will give NASA a good idea about what happens at Mars’ planetary core.

NASA said: “The InSight mission seeks to uncover how a rocky body forms and evolves to become a planet by investigating the interior structure and composition of Mars.

“The mission will also determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.”

NASA expects the entire mission to only last just over one Martian year which is roughly the equivalent of 728 days back on Earth.

On the very same rocket barrelling towards Mars NASA has mounted two briefcase-sized satellites dubbed Mars Cubed One or CubeSats.

The CubeSats will test NASA’s ability to successfully communicate with the InSight lander with miniaturised satellites.

If all goes according to plan on landing day, InSight’s camera’s will kick off just minutes after touch down to beam back pictures of Elysium Planitia.



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