The last time NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars was six years ago.
NASA’s InSight Lander. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.
Since then, we learned so much about the red planet that it forced us to reconsider everything we thought about Mars.
But NASA wants more, and we also do. We want to understand more about the red planet, and we really want to find out whether Mars is inhabited, at least my microorganisms.
That’s why on November 26, 2018, NASA’s InSight mission will attempt to enter the Red Planet’s atmosphere and land at Elysium Planitia, not far from where the Curiosity Rover currently roams.
Unlike previous NASA rovers like Opportunity and Curiosity, Mars ‘landers’ won’t be driving around the red planet. Instead, InSight will the first manmade spacecraft to observe the inner composition of the red planet.
And this is awesome news actually.
We know quite a lot about the surface of Mars thanks to ANSA’s various rovers exploring the Martian landscape.
But we know very little about what’s located beneath the surface.
We have absolutely no idea what the red planet’s core is made of, we don’t know its size, and we have very limited information on how geologically active our neighboring planet really is.
And to solve all of these mysteries, NASA sent its InSight Mission to Mars.
Mission experts hope that InSight will help us understand Mars like never before.
As explained by NASA, “The lander uses cutting-edge instruments, to delve deep beneath the surface and seek the fingerprints of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets. It does so by measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).”
However, before the InSight lander gets to do all of that, it has to actually survive touching down on Mars and get through the so-called “seven minutes of Terror” during the EDL phase, atmospheric entry, descent, and landing.
“We’re really excited. There’s nothing as exciting as landing on Mars. So far we are in good shape. We’ve basically done everything we can to be ready,” said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman.
During EDL, InSight will travel around 13,000 miles per hour as it enters the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft is expected to withstand a tremendous amount of heat. In fact, as explained by experts, the spacecraft’s heat shield is expected to heat up to as much as 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that can melt steel.
“Once we get an indication that we’ve landed successfully and get that first image back, the people that work EDL and the navigation team will go off and celebrate,” Hoffman says.
“But the rest of us have to start the science part of the mission: the whole point of landing on Mars is to do the cool science.”