Sunday, 19 August, 2018

NASA's newest Mars lander to study quakes on Red Planet

The Mars rover Curiosity self-portrait InSight probe to survey Mars for secrets inside the planet
Guillermo Lane | 05 May, 2018, 01:35

While their job on the InSight mission will be to relay information about the lander as it descends to the planet's surface, it is NASA's hope that these two tiny spacecraft can demonstrate a new mode of interplanetary space exploration-one that costs considerably less than the full-scale missions that are the only thing that's been possible until now.

First, about the launch. Hopefully they can get this candle lit earlier rather than later.

A problem with a seismic instrument, built by France's Centre National d'√Čtudes Spatiales (CNES), prompted NASA to postpone launching InSight until the next time Mars's orbit aligned with earth's for an optimal flight.

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Once launched, InSight will coast through space for about six months before arriving at Mars in November. These will orbit Mars, observing InSight's progress on landing and reporting back to Nasa's mission control. The West Coast switch was made because the rocket carrying InSight is powerful enough for a southward trajectory and because of scheduling availability, NASA said. It has very sensitive seismometers on it (called SEIS, for Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure), created to investigate seismic activity on Mars. In fact, it's how we've learned so much about our own planet's innards! The mission will also determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts. Go check it out. The landers instruments include a seismometer to detect marsquakes, and a probe that will monitor the flow of heat from the planets interior.

HP3 will take Mars' temperature as it burrows down almost 16 feet below the surface - deeper than any previous arms, scoops, drills or probes before it. Other forces can cause the precession itself to wobble as well, and this is called nutation. The forces in this case are mostly from the gravity of the Sun and Jupiter. Doing this with previous missions like Viking and Pathfinder revealed that Mars does precess, gave hints that Mars is differentiated - that is, has different layers of materials in it - and even gave an estimate of the size of its core. A little over an hour later, at about 2:30 a.m. EDT the 260-foot-tall Mobile Service Tower which is a structure that protects the Atlas V launch vehicle as well as its InSight payload during vertical assembly, will initiate a 20-minute long, 250-foot roll away from the Atlas, while the launch window will open four hours and 25 minutes later.

"These really extreme volume constraints have forced us to really rethink and recreate everything", says John Baker, who manages the small satellite programs at JPL. "We just needed the ride [with InSight] to essentially get out to interplanetary speeds".

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