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The NASA InSight Mars Lander launches its engines for the first time in space



  NASA InSight Mars Landers launch their engines into space for the first time

Illustration of the NASA InSight lander approaching Mars. InSight, which launched May 5, completed its first course correction maneuver on Tuesday (May 22).

NASA InSight Mars lander made his first motor burn on Tuesday (May 22) ,

The 40-second break, involving four of the eight InSight engines, was designed to change the lander's speed by approximately 1

3.7 km / h (8.5 mph). Members of the mission team will perform up to five more burns before November 26's InSight's Touchdown, but none will be more substantial than on Tuesday, NASA officials said.

InSight did not target Mars when it took off on a United launch the Alliance Atlas V rocket on May 5. That is completely normal. Mars spacecraft are scrubbed carefully before launch to minimize the likelihood that they will contaminate the red planet with microbes on Earth, but the missiles they drive on remain "dirty." [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Here’s 10 Surprising Facts]

"The Mars launches require the missile to be aligned to fly into space," NASA officials said in a statement announcing the InSight engine fire. "Separately, the spacecraft performs a series of trajectory correction maneuvers leading to the Red Planet, ensuring that only the clean spacecraft lands on the planet, while the [rocket] upper stage is not approaching."

The four engines that were not involved on Tuesday were also trained. They fire autonomously every day to keep InSight's antenna to earth and their solar panels to the sun, NASA officials said.

InSight's navigation team keeps track of these background burns.

"Everyone's been working hard to determine what these are since launch Small forces have reached the trajectory," said InSight navigation chief Allen Halsell of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in the same statement. "People have worked many hours to look at it, which is a very interesting problem for engineers, and it's fun to find out."

InSight's next course correction maneuver is scheduled to take place on July 28, according to the Mission Start press kit. Additional burning dates are October 12th, November 11th, November 18th and November 25th. (However, this data should not be set in stone, according to the press kit, the first burn should originally take place on May 15.

InSight – its name is short for "Interior Exploration with seismic surveys, geodesy and heat transfer" – is on the Road to a flat plain north of the Martian equator, where it will make a parachute-assisted touchdown on November 26.

The lander will then spend about two years observing and collecting "Marsquakes" and subterranean heat flux InSight's observations will help scientists better understand how Mars and rocky planets in general evolve and evolve, as mission team members said.

InSight announced a launch with a demonstration mission named Mars Cube One & (MarCO), which consists of two identical briefcase satellites The MarCO vehicle has already traveled deeper into space than any other cube.

If all goes according to plan, the duo will fly on Mars on November 26, while InSight will perform its shattering Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) sequence. The CubeSats will try to send InSight EDL telemetry back to Earth. (NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will do likewise, so MARCO's contributions in this regard are not critical to InSight's mission.)

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter & @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.


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