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Alabama scientist's dream approaches as NASA's InSight probe approaches Mars

NASA hopes to land its first spacecraft on Mars since curiosity six years ago on Monday afternoon and an Alabama…

NASA hopes to land its first spacecraft on Mars since curiosity six years ago on Monday afternoon and an Alabama researcher on the mission team will hold the breath with people around the world until the InSight lander comes down safely.

“We will know relatively quickly if it survived and is doing well,” said Dr. Renee Weber of the month from her Huntsville office. “That’s when you’ll see all the cheering and hugs.”

The Mars InSight name stands for Mars Interior Exploration using seismic surveys, geodesy and heat transport – should move around around 2 o’clock. It will send a “ping” saying it is alive and ready to start two years of scientific study.

Landing on Mars is not easy. Only about 4 in 1

0 of all missions sent to the planet have been successful, and America is the only nation to have a mission to survive the landing. What makes Mars so tough? It begins with a thin atmosphere – 1 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere – and it means almost no friction to slow the ship.

NASA will cover landing live on its website, social media and NASA television. Live viewing events are planned around the country including the United States Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Landing is Elysium Planitia As Weber said, the closest thing Mars has to “park – a very flat, safe space without stones and no backs.” There is plenty of sunlight to drive InSights solar panels.

With a seismometer and heat profile, InSight is the first spacecraft to be distinguished during March. The probe is designed to measure the heat flow coming out of the planet, Weber said. “It tells about the deep structure and where the planet is in its development cycle.”

Researchers know that Mars is farther in that cycle than in the earth. Planets begin as hot, active, probably melted mountain balls which, when they develop, lose their heat and contract, become less active, says Weber.

Scientists believe that Mars and Earth were formed by the same basic “primordial things” “More than 4.5 billion years ago. But they developed differently, and the question is why.”

“Understand the inner structure of (Mars) helps us figure out how all earth-based planets are formed and developed, “Weber said. “It gives some context to some observations we have from the earth.”

Researchers know from photographs that Mars still has geological errors. It has no moving plates below the surface like the earth, but Weber said: “We have seen rocks and landslides likely to be induced by some kind of shaking.”

“Being able to show that these errors are still shaking today would be a very big thing,” Weber says.

Insight will also observe meteorite effects. If the seismometer can record an effect, this data can be used to fine-tune models to find other events on the planet.

One of the coolest features of the mission is that InSights data will be available to the public after a period when only the science team can see it.

“The seismic data will actually integrate into the same software tools that ground-based seismologists use to watch earthquake data, “Weber said.” Who wants to be able to enter IRIS ( and request downloading seismic data from Mars in the same way that you can request seismic data from the earth. “

The path that led Weber to the National Space Science Technology Center research center in Huntsville began studying seismology at elementary school. On-going seabed seismology – used heavily by the oil exploration industry – got a chance to look at seismic information from the moon.

“I said,” Yes, I’m interested, “Weber said.” I did not know there were seismographs on the moon. “(It’s thanks to NASA’s Apollo program.)

Weber did his first postdoctoral research with “with the team in France who actually built the seismometer for InSight, and that’s how I became involved. “

The team proposed the March 2010 mission to NASA’s Discovery program. The program for developing smaller missions for NASA funding is governed by the Huntsville Marshall Space Flight Center.

” The team had attempted to get a seismometer on Mars during the two recent decades, Weber says. “So this really is the culmination of the dignity of a whole career from hundreds of people, probably thousands of people at this time, all of whom have advocated their career for seismic missions to other planets.”

Weber is a member of the Science Team who meets regularly during the opening weeks of the assignment and months when deciding which maneuvers the booklet will carry out next time. After that, InSight will sit quietly for two years and listen and send data back to earth.

As cool as InSight, it’s just one of several NASA probes that reach their destinations in deep space. They include:

– Parker Solar Probe, which made its first close approach to Sun Nov. 5 coming within 15 million miles of the Earth’s star and reaching a top speed of 213,000 miles an hour.

– The probe OSIRIS -Rex is scheduled to arrive at the Deep Space Asteroid Bennu Dec 13 for a year of study delimited by a tag-up to collect a test and return it.

– New Horizons will make the most remote spacecraft airfield so far January 1 when it meets the Kuiper Belt object called Ultimate Thule.

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