Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

Nasa's latest Mars craft nears landing for unprecedented seismic mission

Nasa's latest Mars craft nears landing for unprecedented seismic mission

The spacecraft, created to burrow beneath the surface of Mars, landed Monday after a six-month, 482-million-kilometre journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.

The JPL controllers also expected to receive a photograph of the probe's surroundings close to the planet's equator, Elysium Planitia. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where the building blocks below the planet's surface that recorded its history.

The lander set down right on target in what Nasa described as "the biggest parking lot on Mars" - a boring, featureless plain on the equator whose name, ...

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have a testbed that looks like a pile of gravel in a lab, complete with boulders and a full engineering model of InSight that they can recreate the landing site with.

NASA's mission is the first to study and map the interior structure of the Red Planet.

Although an old pro at this, Nasa last attempted a landing at Mars six years ago.

InSight will address a fundamental issue of solar system science, not just specific questions about a single planet. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

Unlike earthquakes, marsquakes are a effect of a cooling and shrinking world, says Hoffman, and hopes are high that there will be many marsquakes for InSight to detect.

The NASA Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

Earth's overall success rate at Mars is 40 percent. While Earth is active seismically, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after it formed, he said. InSight sent its first picture from Mars surface soon after.

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Of course, the amount of data that a lander can gather is limited, as it's only sitting on one spot on Mars, and it will take some waiting before the mission reveals interesting information.

Congratulations flooded into the space agency following the success, including from Mike Pence, the United States vice president, who celebrated the "incredible milestone" of the country's eighth successful landing on Mars. "It's such a risky thing that there's always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong".

The rover began its space journey in May this year and travelled over 300 million miles before landing on Mars today.

The plan called for the spacecraft to go from 19,800km/h to zero in six minutes flat as it pierced the Martian atmosphere and settled on the surface. Updates were coming in via radio signals that take more than eight minutes to cross the almost 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

The satellites provided real-time updates of the spacecraft's supersonic descent through the reddish skies and also shot back a quick photo from the planet.

Landing on Mars is no easy feat, not even for a small stationary robot like InSight.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported Monday afternoon that its InSight lander successfully landed on Mars following a 7-minute descent to the Red Planet's surface.

The answers are believed to have something to do with the as-yet unexplained absence, since Mars' ancient past, of either a magnetic field or tectonic activity, said NASA's chief scientist James Green. Two complementary engineering cameras help with navigation and hazard avoidance. What about either planet's composition allowed life to flourish and water to exist on one, but caused the water to disappear from the other?

Later Monday, mission scientists should be able to confirm that the spacecraft's solar arrays have unfurled.

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