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NASA's InSight Lander to Reveal the Secrets Inside Mars

Mars is the second-most studied planet – only behind our own – but we know practically nothing about its interior.…

Mars is the second-most studied planet – only behind our own – but we know practically nothing about its interior. All astronomers have to go by is models and theories, but no concrete evidence.

NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission aims to change that. InSight will touch down Monday (Nov. 26) around 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT), in a “6 minutes of terror” touchdown that you can follow live here at Space.com. Shortly thereafter, the lander will begin looking under the surface of Mars to reveal the secrets within the Red Planet.

About 4.5 billion years ago, the eight planets of our solar system were formed. All eight planets were formed from a clumpy disk of rock, ice and debris orbiting the young sun. Fast-forward to the present and we now see a distinct difference between the inner and outer planets. The terrestrial planet (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) all have a tight rocky structure, with only one capable of supporting life. The Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) are all primarily gas and swollen up to enormous sizes. De spørgsmålet om at astronomerne stadig ikke kan svare, selv om, hvordan har disse terrestriske planets form og evolve? [NASA&#821

7;s InSight Mars Lander: Full Coverage]

A diagram of NASA’s InSight Mars lands and its science instruments to look inside the Red Planet.

Credit: NASA / JPL -Caltech – Adrian Mann / Tobias Roetsch / Future Plc

Thanks to modern technology and perseverance, astronomers have tried to answer this question in a period of extensive exploration of one of our closest neighbors, Mars. Men tidligere missioner har kun været i stand til at skrape overfladen. Where landers, robbers and orbiters before it have been in hot pursuit of water on the dry, sandy surface, or designed to study the planet’s tiny atmosphere, InSight is delving deeper into the unknown. By putting an ear to the ground, astronomers will gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Red Planet’s core, mantle and crust.

“The objectives of the mission are to map the structure and thermal state of the deep interior of Mars for the first time, and to use this information to better understand the early formation processes of terrestrial planets, including the Earth,” InSight Principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, or NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, told All About Space.

Originally due to launch in March 2016, InSight suffered a major setback when a vacuum leak was found in one of the lander’s key instruments in December 2015. But mission team members fixed the leak, and InSight launched to the Red Planet at the next available opportunity, in May 2018. (Mars and Earth align favorably for interplanetary missions every 26 months.)

InSight lifted off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V racket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 5, becoming the first interplanetary mission ever to launch from the United States West Coast. InSight and two free-flying cubesats, known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B, then endured a 6.5-month journey toward a planet rescuer and drier than Earth, and about half our world’s size. [Launch Photos: NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Blasts Off on Atlas V Rocket]

From here, InSight can finally join its NASA predecessors as it finds unequivocally important and revolutionary results, if all goes according to plan. (The briefcase size MarCO-A and MarCO-B have a different fate; the duo’s main mission involves showing that cubesats can explore interplanetary space. The pair will attempt to beam home InSight data during the lander’s touchdown, but this task is not essential , as NASA Mars orbiters will do this as well. MarCO-A and MarCO-B will zoom on March on Monday, and their missions will end shortly thereafter.)

When NASA sent its first successful orbiter in 1971, Mariner 9, It became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet, sending back about 7,300 images of the Martian surface and its two moons. Since then, humans have maintained an impressive number of satellites in orbit and probes on the surface, including the late and great missions such as the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, the Viking 1 and 2 missions and the Spirit Rover.

NASA is no stranger to landing on and orbiting Mars. Here’s a look at the U.S. space agency’s mission to the Red Planet.

Credit: Nicholas Forder / Future Plc

There are also many functioning visitors still at Mars, including the Curiosity and Opportunity Rovers and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN). The Phoenix Lander, which was launched on Aug. 4, 2007, and lay stationary on the surface for 157 Martian days, the mission that InSight’s design is based on.

“InSight will use the same lander design as the 2007 Phoenix Mission, which gives us a proven landing and surface system without the cost of developing them from scratch,” Banerdt explained. “Plus, we will be using multiple orbiters at Mars to relay back to Earth, our precious data. It’s hard to overstate the extent that knowledge from earlier missions informs InSight science.”

The InSight lander will stand at a height between 33 to 43 inches (83 to 108 centimeters) above the Martian surface, and once InSight’s solar panels are deployed, its total span will be 19.7 feet (6 meters). Dette er omtrent det samme som to tredjedele af længden af ​​en London bus. Overall the whole lander will weigh 794 lbs. (360 kilograms), which is about 88 percent of the mass of the Phoenix landing. Pakket indenfor denne bundle er noen av de fineste og mest følsomme instrumenter for å få grace på jordens jord, og de er nødvendige for å fungere i minst ett marsår, hvilket er stort set ækvivalent med to jordår.

Before these instruments can blossom, the InSight lander needs to survive its harrowing entry, descent and landing sequence. In ongeveer 6 minuten op maandag, de lander moet vertrekken vanaf 14.100 mph (22.692 km / h) door de atmosfeer van Mars, tot een doodlopende stop op de oppervlakte. As Mars’ atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth’s, slowing down the spacecraft is a much more difficult task. To succeed, a heat shield will cause as much friction with as little atmosphere as possible, causing the shield to reach extreme temperatures. The spacecraft will then deploy its parachute, jettison its heat shield and extend its legs. Etter at landeren kom til en fornuftig nedadgående hastighed, blev parachuten shed og 12 boosters ved starten af ​​firingen. This provides the final cushion before it lands in Elysium Planitia. [Mars InSight: NASA’s Mission to Probe Red Planet’s Core (Gallery)]

When asked about why Elysium Planitia was selected as the designated home for the duration of InSight’s mission, Matthew Golombek or JPL, InSight’s landing site lead, told All About Space it’s because “it meets all the engineering constraints for landing and surviving for a March year. It is low in elevation, near the equator and smooth, flat and relatively rock-free over the landing ellipse. “

Once landing is complete and InSight has reached its destination, its solar panels and instruments can be prepared. De blomstrende af solpaneler er den mest nødvendige del af hele missionen, da landeren vil blive drevet af mindre intens stråler eller en længere-væk sol. Solen skiner omtrent halvt så stærkt på Mars end jorden, hvilket betyder at InSights solpaneler skal være i stand til at presse så meget solcreme ud af disse stråler som muligt. Once its solar wings are spread, the instruments can be deployed, and the mysteries of Mars’ mischievous mantle and core can be unveiled. The Instrument Deployment Arm (IDA) will place the seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and the heat flow probe, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3), on the ground. Along with a radio-science investigation, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), this tactical trio will be at the forefront of the interior investigations.

Each instrument has been carefully planned and created to perform a very specific task. SEIS will be the first seismometer to Mars in 40 years, and will listen to tremors that could come from marsquakes, meteorite impacts or even possibly magma churning deep underneath the Red Planet’s surface. In fact, this martian stethoscope is so sensitive it can pick up vibrations smaller than a hydrogen atom.

“SEIS will be placed on the ground by a robotic arm and will listen for the small (fractions of a nanometer) ground vibration due to seismic waves that have traveled through the planet from distant marsquakes,” Banerdt said. ” Analyse av disse bølger vil give os mulighed for at skabe en 3D-billede af det indre af verdenen. “

The InSight team also has plans to collaborate with the MRO mission, which will be on the lookout for meteorite impacts. When the seismometer detects a meteoritic impact, MRO and its meticulous High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera will scout out the fresh crater.

Alongside SEIS is a drill that will take the planet’s temperature. HP3 will make its way 16 feet (5m) down into the Martian crust. This is just 10 percent of Mars’ overall crust, but it is a good enough depth to allow astronomers to analyze the heat that comes from deep within the planet. The heat flowing underneath the surface reveals how active the planet is. On Earth, we are well aware of a region of magma churning beneath our crust that drives our tectonic plates and heats up our planet. The heat flow within Mars could be compared to Earth’s and reveal that both were formed from the same substances, and if they are not, then why not.

“We are essentially doing the same thing anyone would do on a campout, but we’re putting our stake down on Mars,” said Suzanne Smreker or JPL, InSight’s deputy principal investigator.

“Getting well below the surface gets us away from the sun’s influence and allows us to measure heat coming from the interior,” she added. “InSight is going to take the heartbeat and vital signs of the Red Planet for an entire Martian year, two Earth years.” We are really going to have an opportunity to understand the processes that control the early planetary formation. “

This article was provided by Space.com’s sister publication All About Space, a print magazine dedicated to astronomy, space exploration and the night sky. Sign up for the All About Space newsletter for news and subscription details! Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook . This version of the story published on Space.com .

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