Sci-tech

NASA To Get "Insight" Into Mars' Core

NASA To Get

InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will be NASA's first mission to peer deep within the interior of Mars with a suite of instruments created to give the planet a thorough check-up from the inside out.

NASA researchers and scientists are much keen about the structure and formation of the Earth.

InSight is scheduled to rocket away from central California's Vandenberg Air Force Base early Saturday.

The 794-pound lander, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is set to touch down on November 26 after a six-month cruise and a six-minute re-entry and descent-the most perilous aspect of the journey. It's a lander - the first NASA mission to Mars since MAVEN, and the first planned to touch down since Curiosity - and will be looking into marquakes.

After entering Mars' atmosphere, the lander will deploy a parachute, then fire retrograde rockets to slow it as it approaches the ground.

InSight isn't the only mission launching this month; JPL's GRACE-FO satellite is scheduled to take off on May 19 and will pick up from the 15-year GRACE mission to continue monitoring how melting polar ice caps are contributing to rising sea levels. It is due to last two years - one Martian year - and aims to improve understanding of how rocky planets including Earth are formed and develop.

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InSight is also equipped with a heat probe (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe, or HP) that will penetrate the surface to see how heat flows up from the interior.

The 358kg lander features a robot arm measuring 2.4 metres, which scientists will use to position instruments on the surface, and solar panels able to generate 600 - 700 watts. One InSight instrument will dig 5 meters (16 feet) into the subsurface to measure heat from the interior. This is an ambitious experiment; the probe is supposed to hammer itself an wonderful 5 meters down into the Martian surface, far more than has even been attempted or achieved before.

"Mars is still a pretty mysterious planet", Banerdt said. But it is much more than a Mars mission.

In case the Saturday launch is delayed, the launch window opens a few minutes earlier each morning up until June 8. The actual launch of InSight also may be viewed online.

"The most important piece about MarCO as a tech demo is that it is a precursor to so many other missions and opportunities", Klesh says.

“For those Southern Californians who are interested in rockets or space exploration, or have insomnia, we hope to put on a great show this Saturday, ” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager from NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


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