Cheers and applause erupted at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday as a waist high unmanned lander, called InSight, touched down on Mars, capping a almost seven-year journey from design to launch to landing. "And Mars is a great place to go and start to study that". The second phase will be characterized mainly by deploying and configuring special tools of research Rover and their subsequent use in the process of drilling and analysis of rocks.
"InSight is different to previous Mars missions".
And since InSight will be conducting experiments for a whole Martian year on the Red Planet (which is about two earth years), the probe has a scaled-up solar panel model compared to the one NASA used in the six-month long Phoenix Mars Landermission in 2008. Since landing, it has taken two photos and sent them back as postcards to Earth, showing off its new home. That is the objective of the new space Rover, which should also reveal many interesting points. However, in the event of special moments, the Rover system is provided with a reinforced drilling and splitting of samples.
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The mission's primary instrument suite will come online over the next three months.
Speeding faster than a bullet at 19,800km/h, the heat-shielded spacecraft encountered scorching friction as it entered the Mars atmosphere. But also, as I was saying before, it tells us a lot about how planets form, and then we can apply that back to our own planet [to] understand why we have a planet, why we have a planet that has oceans, why we have a planet that has a breathable atmosphere and a temperature which is conducive to life. And InSight's magnetometer and weather sensors are taking readings of the landing site, Elysium Planitia - "the biggest parking lot on Mars". One of its first tasks is to deploy its two decagonal solar arrays, which will provide power. It's hoped that the radio telescopes will pick up those signals, though NASA also has a couple of CubeSats orbiting Mars that could help relay the signals. But InSight is expected to yield the first meaningful data on planetary seismic tremors beyond Earth.
Normally, this relaying is done using the already existing spacecraft such as NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or the European Space Agency's Mars Express.
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As it approaches the surface the heat shield will separate and InSight will have to perform a manoeuvre to escape it - or risk it crashing into the lander once it reaches the surface.
Described as "a tool to allow users to explore and learn about a potential future Mars colony", the base depicted is "grounded in real possibilities, informed by real science with direct guidance and feedback from NASA and JPL scientists about the technological and material constraints for building human habitation on the red planet".
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