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Mars Landing: NASA INSIGHT Built for Absurd Conditions

There is really no way to repeat the landing on Mars. You can simulate it, sure, but the most valuable lessons are learned during the actual experiments. When things go bad, these lessons are also the most expensive. The fact is, most missions to Mars fail, though NASA has a better track record than most. The agency has carried out seven successful landings on the red planet. On Monday, November 26th, it will be its eighth attempt to land the $ 830 million InSight spacecraft in Elysium Planitia, a vast plain north of the Martian equator.

If NASA is successful, InSight (short for interior) exploration with seismic surveys, geodesy, and heat transport) will be the first mission to probe the interior of Mars with thermal probes and seismometry. An approach that scientists believe will answer questions about the formation and composition of the red planet. But first the spaceship has to land. To achieve this, it has to endure an atmospheric launch with more than the speed of sound and weather-related sandstorms and does not have to be squeezed with its own discarded equipment. Getting to Mars is difficult, but NASA engineers believe that boarding, descent and landing are possible ̵

1; the seven-minute period in which mission planners can helplessly intervene, as the distance between Mars and Earth is enormous – the riskiest sequence in the world entire mission. So NASA plans to create it.

Monday, November 26, 11:47 pm PT

For InSight, the action will begin on Monday, November 26, at 11:47 pm PT (2:47 pm ET). , At this point, the lander is supposed to hit the Martian atmosphere at about 43 miles above the surface of the planet. Upon contact, the probe will collapse at a not so cool 5500 feet per second. That's 12,300 miles per hour.

At these speeds, the main concern of NASA engineers is friction. The Martian atmosphere, about 100 times thinner than Earth's, plays a crucial role in the arrival of InSight: Bleeding the spacecraft's kinetic energy. But the atmosphere poses a significant threat, as well. InSight's resistance to InSight's heat shield, a 419 pound case made primarily of broken cork, will raise the temperature of the protective barrier to temperatures in excess of 2700 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt steel.

11:49 am PT

These temperatures will be reached at about 11:49 am approximately 90 seconds after InSight discovers the atmosphere of the Martian atmosphere. At about the same time, InSight will experience its maximum deceleration forces as Earth's magnitudes approach eight times gravity. Subjecting to as little as 4 gs subjects can lose consciousness in a matter of seconds. InSight could experience its own version of a blackout: the heat at this point of atmospheric entry will be so intense that NASA engineers expect it to ionize gas in the spacecraft's surroundings, resulting in a temporary interference of the radio transmissions to Earth.

InSight begins descent towards the Martian surface. In the next two minutes, InSight slows down until the sensors on board determine that the supersonic dropshield of the spacecraft can safely be deployed.

11:51 pm PT

Depending on the local weather conditions (sandstorms are common on Mars this year.) Of the year – another incident due to InSight's heat shield), the chute, which has a diameter of 39 Foot has docked with 40 suspension lines to the spacecraft, to be pitched around 11:51. Ten seconds later, the spacecraft's landing radar will go online.

What follows is a series of carefully tuned steps that are essential to lowering the lander as he prepares to touch down. In the first 25 seconds of the parachute crash, InSight will discard its thermal protection and deploy its three shock-absorbing legs to prepare for the landing. Ninety seconds later, the spacecraft starts with the now fully activated radar to measure its proximity to the Martian surface and the speed of its approach.

11:53 pm PT

The last minute of the arrival of InSight on Mars will be marked by the shedding of even more equipment. Forty-five seconds before touchdown, the probe should be descending at about 134 mph. At a height of two-thirds of a mile, as determined by his radar, InSight will part with its parachute and fire off a dozen descent engines a second later. With on-board navigation software, these engines can be operated in quadruple by slowing down the lander's descent, directing it towards the landing zone and aligning it so that its solar arrays extend from east to west – all outside the area his previously thrown away and imminent entrance of outer skin and slide.

11:54 pm PT

In the last fifteen seconds, InSight has descended from 164 feet, slowing its vertical speed to 17-5 miles per hour: its ground touch speed. This last plop, scheduled for 11:54 am, is designed to compress InSight's shock absorbing legs, activating sensors on the upper ends of the struts. Triggering these sensors intercepts the lander's retrorockets and sends two signals – one to indicate that the robot has landed, and a second, seven minutes later, to communicate that the robot is operational.

Then it is assumed that all is well, point comes celebration; InSight begins to do science only weeks later. First, NASA engineers must use a camera attached to the InSight's 8-foot robotic arm to inspect the environment and determine the ideal location to place the two most important scientific instruments: a self-buried heat probe and a series of quake-sensing seismometers. After deciding where to place them, they will use a five-finger gripper at the end of the arm to lift and lift the research instruments from the InSight Deck (a floor-mounted shelf) and place them on the surface of the Planets – a maneuver described by one of InSight's engineers for payload systems, which was similar to the claw game you play in the arcade, millions of miles away. Fortunately, InSight operators will be able to do the jigsaw in JPL Pasadena's In-Situ Instrument Lab – a life-size model of the lander and landing pad that allows mission planners to perfect their control of the robot before they do Send instructions into space. There is no way to test the landing of a robot on Mars, but at least the InSight engineers can do it again.

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