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For NASA's InSight Mars Lander, all systems run for Monday Touchdown

All systems are scheduled for landing on Mars on November 26, NASA personnel joining the InSight mission confirmed during a…

All systems are scheduled for landing on Mars on November 26, NASA personnel joining the InSight mission confirmed during a couple of news conferences held today (21

November).

From this press conference, spacecraft had traveled about 295 million miles (475 million miles) of the 301 million miles (484 million miles) that will offset its total travel. But one of the most serious obstacles remains, the entrance, the descent and the landing process, starting around 3 EST (2000 GMT) on Monday (26 November).

“My heart breaks into my chest like a drum,” said NASA project leader Tom Hoffman during the press conference. “While everyone has turkey tomorrow, there will be a lot of people here at JPL [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory] who work all day and hopefully take a little break for a turkey dinner, but work to a large extent because we land successfully on Mars.” [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Full Coverage]

Part of this work will include determining whether the spacecraft needs a very small push to get it in place for landing. Since launch, InSight has made four small tweaks on its way to ensure it reaches the target. It was possible to skip an extra maneuver because the others have gone so smoothly, and the team believes that the probe may skip the final adjustment scheduled for November 25th.

Properly arranging the spacecraft increases the odds that everything will go smoothly during entry, descent and landing. Even if the process persists for less than 7 minutes, much can go wrong, because the spacecraft brakes slowly from its initial speed of 12,000 km / h to 5 km / h when the lander runs down.

Fortunately, landing is clear, according to researchers who have provided daily updates for the touchdown. The dust storm that has plagued Mars this year has mostly died and InSight’s landing site, Elysium Planitia, has been particularly quiet. “For the past month, it has been really good,” said Rob Grover, who oversees entry, descent and landing phase, during the press conference. “We expect a very common day on Mars for the landing, and we are very pleased with that.”

When InSight moves down, it will twiddle the thumb for about 16 minutes to allow the dust to kick up to settle down again. Then landers will use their circular solar books – a crucial step in the process, as the battery on board will only be on a March day.

If the first implementation fails, InSight has three more options to develop, Stu Spath, project manager at Lockheed Martin, who built a lot of spacecraft, said during the press conference. “The spacecraft is completely capable of taking care of itself during that period,” said Spath.

The crew confirmed that there will be little to wait for the landing. Final confirmation that the sunshine is being discontinued comes from Orbiter 2001 Mars Odyssey. But the spacecraft will be on the wrong side of the planet to send its message back to earth so the team will have to wait for almost 6 hours because the orbital mechanics are correct.

A few small satellites that traveled with InSight, called Mars Cube One or MarCO, can relieve waiting time. The two small companions carry test techniques that, if all goes well, will transmit signals from the lander straight back to earth, bypassing the great Mars orbits.

The rest of us will hear about landing later on November 26, when NASA is holding a press conference after the fact, sometime after 17:00 EST (2200 GMT). Until then, when Philippe Laudet, who leads the seismometer project on InSight, said when he packed up his part of the news conference, it is “Goodbye, thank you see you on Mars next week!”

Email Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or follow her @meghanbartels . Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook. Original article on Space.com .

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