NASA Looking Toward Manned Mission To Mars 'Sometime In The 2030s'

Pat Wise
November 27, 2018

Nearly half of the attempts to land on Mars fail.

InSight is the eighth lander NASA has sent to Mars.

This focus on the Martian interior explains why the mission team chose such a boring landing site: Cliffs, craters, ancient river deltas and other landscape features would serve only to complicate a safe touchdown.

When it reaches the Red Planet, the probe will have traveled 301,223,981 miles at a top speed of 6,200 mph, according to NASA. Atmospheric drag will dissipate about 90 percent of the lander's considerable kinetic energy, but that won't be enough; InSight will slow itself further with the aid of a supersonic parachute, and then thrusters. However, a high-speed crash remains a risk.

The NASA Martian lander InSight dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars is seen in an undated artist's rendering.

The lander will touch down on Mars at 3pm ET (8pm GMT), on Monday, November 26.

After the landing, scientists will take it slow and steady with the lander and its scientific instruments.

Viewing parties are planned coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as in France, where InSight's seismometer was designed and built.

NASA will today attempt to land the probe as safely and as gently as possibly on the vast planes of Mars' Elysium Planitia.

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The instrument, mounted on the deck of the lander, will also give an indication if the core is liquid or solid.

Two Earthbound radio telescopes, the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia and Max Planck Institute in Efflesberg, Germany, will be trained on Mars in the hope of detecting the signals in the event of the experimental MarCOs not playing ball.

No landing on Mars is easy. The satellite also shot back a quick photo from Mars' surface.

The space agency's older, smaller Opportunity was roaming around up there until June, when a global dust storm knocked it out of service. Finally, by March 2, all of the lander's instruments will reach their science-taking configurations, and the real Martian geology will begin.

Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions.

InSight's primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, created to record the slightest vibrations from "marsquakes" and meteor impacts around the planet. On Monday afternoon, two CubeSats that were launched with InSight, MarCO-A and -B, will relay data about the landing in real-time. "Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort".

Is Curiosity still on Mars? The mission will be NASA's first landing on the Red Planet since the Curiosity rover in 2012. The Rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021. It will use a robotic arm, and a drill, to collect rocks and soil samples from Jezero Crater just north of the Martian equator, and if it finds anything interesting, it will leave it in a box for a possible future "sample return" mission, possibly by humans. The time at which the parachute deploys can also be adjusted so as to account for the weather conditions on Mars today.

"It's taken more than a decade to bring InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars - and even longer since I was first inspired to try to undertake this kind of mission", said Bruce Banerdt of Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), InSight's principal investigator.

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