NASA hopes InSight will illuminate Mars' unknown core

Mars In Sight Lander Successfully Touches Down on The Red Planet

On Nov. 26, 2018, NASA's Mars InSight lander will touch down on the Red Planet at 3 p.m. EST.

InSight and MarCO flight controllers monitored and cheered for the spacecraft's successful entry, descent and landing from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

This image, made available by NASA in October 2016, shows an illustration of NASA's InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars.

Nasa's Insight spacecraft is about to reach the most unsafe part of its journey from Earth to Mars.

NASA's $850 million InSight mission is created to probe the interior of Mars with a seismometer, heat probe and other instruments to study how the planet formed.

While InSight's main mission goals are hidden away out of sight under the planet's surface, it is equipped with two cameras designed for navigation and hazard avoidance. It landed less than 400 miles (600 kilometers) from NASA's Curiosity rover, which until Monday was the youngest working robot in town.

Catherine Johnson is a UBC planetary scientist who is the only Canadian involved in the latest NASA mission to Mars.

The lander set down right on target in what Nasa described as "the biggest parking lot on Mars" - a tiresome, featureless plain on the equator whose name, ...

"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries", Tom Hoffman, NASA's InSight project manager here at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement.

The first image from InSight
Source NASA

To reach Mars, InSight cruised 301,223,981 miles at a top speed of 6,200 miles per hour in space, followed by two cube satellites.

In ballet-like fashion, InSight executed a gravity turn to make sure the lander was in the right position before touching down. We'll be keeping an eye on what happens with InSight from here on out, so stay tuned.

"Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration", InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, said before the landing.

But on Tuesday afternoon, we may get the first image back from InSight of its new home on the surface of Mars. "It's such a risky thing that there's always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong".

InSight landed at Elysium Planitia, called "the biggest parking lot on Mars" by astronomers.

By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life.

The InSight mission team waited and "watched" for the probe's landing by monitoring InSight's radio signals with radio telescopes on Earth and a variety of spacecraft, according to a NASA press release. Landing on the unforgiving dust world is tricky, to say the least, and about two in five of all missions to the Red Planet have failed.

Still, there are no life detectors aboard InSight. A third experiment, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment or RISE, sits on the lander itself and will monitor the position of Mars' North Pole to determine how much the planet is wobbling. That will be part of NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life. The oldest geological history of Earth has been erased by later processes, such as plate tectonics and erosion, which are less active on Mars. While it'll be some time before that happens, space enthusiasts have something to analyze in the interim: InSight's first photograph of Mars, which can be seen below. The self-hammering mole will burrow 5 meters down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

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