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NASA's InSight Lander Fires Thrusters for the First Time

Nearly seven years have passed for NASA without landing anything on Mars. This will change soon, after the recently launched InSIght lander is closing in on the Red Planet.
NASA InSight en route to Mars 1 photo
Currently en route to its destination, the lander is nicely wrapped in the protective aeroshell with which it was launched into space. For the past two weeks or so, the only thing InSIght had to do was sit back in this capsule and enjoy the ride.

On Tuesday however, the lander had to go to work, as it needed to make one of several course corrections to maintain the right trajectory towards Mars. So, for the first time, the craft’s thrusters had to be fired.

NASA’s trajectory correction maneuver, the biggest of them all, went without a hitch, and the organization is now hopeful that the rest of five or six such maneuvers left would go just as well.

The thrusters were fired for about 40 seconds and have had an impact on velocity measured at 3.8 meters per second (8.5 mph). NASA says this “put us in the right ballpark as we aim for Mars."

InSight is an acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The lander is meant to study Mars' deep interior using seismology and other geophysical measurements, including a heat-flow probe.

The immobile instrument platform was built back in 2010 and was initially planned to travel to Mars in 2016. Because of a failure to one of the instruments, the launch was canceled.

Accompanying the InSight is a pair of mini-satellites from the CubeSat family, which will be used to track and follow the lander through space. The main goal of the two CubeSats, called by NASA engineers Wall-E and Eva, is to document the lander’s entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Should they succeed, NASA will use the data gathered from this mission to learn a thing or two and apply that knowledge in future Mars landings.

 
 
 
 
 

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