NASA’s InSight is scheduled to land today to become the first space mission that will study the interior of Mars to find out if it is an entirely dead planet or still harbors some geological activity in its bowels. The US space agency’s spacecraft will enter the Martian atmosphere at 20,000 kilometers per hour to enter the so-called “seven minutes of terror,” the time limit during which it must brake enough to land on the surface of Mars at the right.
The lander weighs 360 kilos, so it cannot use the airbag system used by the lighter Spirit and Opportunity Mars robots. The InSight spaceship will use the friction with the Martian atmosphere to slow down to 1,500 kilometers per hour. When it is about 12 kilometers from the surface, it will deploy the parachute to reduce the speed even more.
At an altitude of 1,000 meters, the parachute will detach, and the radar and an artificial intelligence system will start working. The AI system will use its data to control the intensity of 12 rear thrusters to perform the last braking phase to a velocity of up to eight kilometers per hour. The landing is scheduled for 2:54 PM (ET) today, and the “OK” radio signal from the InSight will take eight minutes longer to reach Earth.
NASA’s InSight Mission Will Land On Mars Today
InSight will touch down on Mars on the Elysium Planitia, possibly the most “boring” place on the Martian surface, as it is nothing than a flat and dusty region, but is very safe for landing and ideal for the primary purpose of the mission. About 40 days after arrival, a robotic arm will deploy one of the mission’s two main instruments, a seismometer that would be the first in history capable of detecting seismic movements on Mars and also meteorite impacts from miles away.
The second instrument is a driller that will penetrate up to five meters into the Martian soil placing temperature sensors in its path.
The InSight mission can help scientists calculate the dimensions of the crust, mantle, and core of the Red Planet, which, like Earth, is a rocky planet.
“We know that in the past there was a great volcanic activity for long periods of time, and, in fact, Mars has the largest volcanoes in the Solar System, some higher than Everest,” explains Alberto Gonzalez-Fairen from the Cornell University. “Being smaller than the Earth, which implies a relationship between the surface and the much larger volume, Mars cooled much faster, and any geological activity it might have had gradually ceased. InSight will tell us if there’s still any residual energy left, and when Mars stopped being active,” he added.