Insight: NASA's countdown to Mars lander liftoff begins

05 May 2018, 02:03 PM
Insight: NASA's countdown to lift off of Mars lander begins (Photo Source: NASA)
Insight: NASA's countdown to lift off of Mars lander begins (Photo Source: NASA)

Insight, NASA’s latest Mars lander, will soon set off to the sky. NASA has begun the countdown to the long-awaited launch of the spacecraft -InSight, which has been is designed to land on the surface of the Red Planet and records "Marsquakes."

Here is all you need to know about NASA’s latest Mars lander – InSight

What does InSight stand for:

 InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

InSight launch time:

InSight is scheduled to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket at 4:05 am Pacific time (1105 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The present foggy weather, ahead of the launch, was the only technical concern posing NASA, according to reports.

NASA safety officers on Friday said the “usual visibility constraints” might be waived so the launch could proceed, according to AFP.

If all goes as planned, the lander should settle on the Red Planet on November 26.

The aim of InSight Mars lander which project cost is $993 million:

With the InSight project, NASA aims to expand human knowledge of conditions on Mars.

Insight aims to find out how rocky planets like Earth has formed billions of years ago.

It also aims to inform efforts to send human explorers there.

"But how quake-prone is Mars? That is fundamental information that we need to know as humans that explore Mars," NASA chief scientist Jim Green said, adding that experts already know that Mars has quakes, avalanches and meteor strikes, according to AFP.

Green also said: Understanding the temperature on Mars is crucial to NASA's efforts to send people there by the 2030's, and how much a human habitat might need to be heated under frigid conditions.

Daytime summer temperatures near the Martian equator may reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees C), but then plunge by night to -100 F (-73 C).

"It is an important part of the knowledge of how this planet is evolving," Green said, adding, "We have to be able as humans living and working on Mars to survive that."

Other facts about InSight as reported:

1 - The key instrument on board is a seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, made by the French Space Agency.

2 - After the lander settles on the Martian surface, a robotic arm is supposed to emerge and place the seismometer directly on the ground.

3 - The second main instrument is a self-hammering probe that will monitor the flow of heat in the planet's subsurface.

4 - Called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, the second instrument was made by the German Space Agency with the participation of the Polish Space Agency.

5 - The probe will bore down 10 to 16 feet (three to five meters) below the surface, NASA said, 15 times deeper than any previous Mars mission.

6 - The solar and battery-powered lander is designed to operate for 26 Earth months, or one year on Mars, a period in which it is expected to pick up as many as 100 quakes.

"Hopefully it will last a lot longer than that," said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (AFP).

7 - The spacecraft was initially supposed to launch in 2016 but had to be delayed after temperature tests showed a problem with part of the seismometer, which engineers have since fixed.

8 - InSight aims to be the first NASA spacecraft to land on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012.

"There is nothing routine about going to Mars, especially landing on Mars," said Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space. He said, "On Saturday morning, the anticipation and excitement is going to be second to none." (AFP)

First Published: Saturday, May 05, 2018 01:40 PM
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