Mars Spacecraft Set To Land On Monday

Gwen Vasquez
November 27, 2018

It will enter the Martian atmosphere at a speed of 12,300 miles per hour (5.5 kilometers per second), at a perfectly calculated angle of 12 degrees to make sure it doesn't burn up or bounce off the atmosphere altogether. In a statement, Rob Grover, the lead of InSight's entry, descent and landing (EDL), based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said, "There's a reason engineers call landing on Mars 'seven minutes of terror'".

After six months of a deep space voyage, NASA's new Mars lander InSight is ready to descend and explore the red planet.

The 800 pound InSight spacecraft is finally going to reach the red planet to closely study the deep interior of Mars. In about six-and-a-half minutes it will have to slow down to about 5 miles per hour using descent thrusters and a parachute.

Here's a minute-by-minute look at the biggest moments of InSight's landing sequence - any of which could doom the robot. The Red Planet probe is a joint US-European mission and has been £1 billion in the making.

But overall, only about 40 per cent of all missions by the U.S., Russians and others have succeeded. Almost two dozen other Mars missions have been sent from other nations.

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"We can't joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-program into the spacecraft".

Scientists consider Mars a tantalizing time capsule because it retains much of its early history.

InSight's primary instrument is a highly sensitive French-built seismometer, created to detect the slightest vibrations from "marsquakes" and meteor impacts.

Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, said the Martian surface is too cold and dry, with too much radiation bombardment, for life to now exist. And by bouncing radio signals back and forth with Earth, it will tell us whether Mars wobbles on its orbit (ultimately telling us about the composition of the planet's core).

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