Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Polish-built robot lands on Mars

NASA Prepares for'Seven Minutes of Terror as In Sight Lander Makes Final Descent to Mars Mars InSight mission: What Nasa's trip to Red Planet aims to discover
Elijah Vega | 30 November, 2018, 07:41

The first picture taken by InSight during landing.

It should descend with a parachute and retrorockets, and land on the smooth plains of Elysium Planitia at around 3pm ET (9pm CET).

InSight is built on the basis of the design of the lander "Phoenix", which was engaged in research in the polar regions of the red planet.

"It's pretty incredible technology", said Taskin Padir, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern. "But even after landing, we'll need to be patient for the science to begin", Bruce Banerdt of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, InSight's principal investigator, said in a statement.

NASA will know that InSight has deployed its solar panels once the Mars Odyssey orbiter flies over the lander's location, snaps pictures of it, and sends those images back, roughly five hours after the landing.

With InSight on Mars, what comes next?

The U.S., however, has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades, not counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown.

And once InSight is wrapping up its studies on Mars in 2020, NASA will be preparing to send its next rover to the Red Planet in search for signs of past microbial life.

"There is great interest in knowing what is underneath", said Padir, who has done extensive research on robotics. And by doing so, you can actually tell a lot about the layers that lie beneath the surface. "That's a key capability right now with the InSight lander". "We had no dropped frames, no dropped data along the way".

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Germany is in charge of InSight's mole, while France is in charge of the seismometer. It will detect the waves from any tectonic movement in Mars (delightfully termed "marsquakes"), as well as from meteor strikes.

InSight, a $1 billion worldwide project, includes a German mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 meters) to measure Mars' internal heat.

Taskin Padir, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern.

The 880lb InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st US-launched Mars mission, dating back to the Mariner fly-bys of the 1960s.

While others wondered what the Martians might think of us if they saw the lander on their planet. After its lengthy journey, the probe has finally and successfully touched down on the martian surface. This will help scientists determine whether Earth and Mars are made from the same material, and how active Mars really is under the surface. That's the time it takes for the radio signal to travel 91 million miles from Mars to Earth. Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core.

All of this, hopefully, will provide a little insight into Earth's own formation. InSight could hand NASA its eighth win.

"It will be cautious deployment inching towards the ultimate step that they want to reach", Padir said.

After sailing 548 million kilometres on a six-month voyage through deep space, the robotic lander touched down on the dusty, rock-strewn surface of Mars just before 3 p.m. ET. "There are many future smallsats and cubesats that are in work and funded by NASA at this point, and we look forward to more concepts into the future".

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