NASA InSight Ready to Hit the Martian Atmosphere at 12,300 MPH

NASA's Insight ready to turn hot red in the Martian atmosphere 1 photo
Photo: NASA
The moment when NASA’s InSIght mission will begin landing operations on Mars is fast approaching, and at this point the team working on the project is confident all systems are go. This is the first Martian landing of an American craft since the Curiosity rover touched down in 2012.
Over the following weekend, NASA engineers will be monitoring the trajectory of the spacecraft and the weather reports from Mars to see if any of these good parameters change.

If all goes well, on Monday the spacecraft will begin its descent toward Mars. InSIght will be entering the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph (19,800 km/h). In the just seven minutes it will take the spacecraft to reach the surface it will have to slow down to 5 mph (8 km/h).

These seven minutes are dubbed by NASA engineers the seven minutes of terror, mostly because they have no actual control of the spacecraft as it maneuvers and have to be confident the pre-programmed instructions are correct and work.

The InSight will be landing in the Elysium Planitia region. NASA will know if all went well if the two CubeSats that are accompanying the mission will work as planned and watch the descent live, sending back to Earth InSight data.

According to NASA, if the CubeSats work mission control will know if the craft landed safely or not just eight minutes after it completes the maneuver. If the CubeSats don’t work, the agency will have to wait several hours before learning of their machine’s fate.

InSight was built back in 2010 and was initially scheduled to leave for Mars in 2016, but because of a failure to one of the instruments, the launch was postponed.

Once on the neighboring planet, the lander will use various instruments to look for quakes, perturbations of Mars' rotation axis, information about the planet's core or the amount of heat escaping from underneath.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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