NASA is sending a solar powered lander to Mars this year as a mission to check under the surface to see what has happened for the past 4.5 billion years on the red planet.
The NASA inspection kit is named InSight, and it’s a gigantic 794-pound Martian lander. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
The spacecraft is supposed to blast off for Mars from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 5, 2018, right before dawn at 4 a.m. pacific.
The scientists at NASA say the lander is going to give Mars a checkup. The goal of the InSight has been placed into three main objectives for what the scientists want to figure out about Mars. The first objective is to take the planet’s temperature, measuring its size, and checking out the amounts of earthquakes that occur on the planet, and where they occur.
The last solar rover sent to Mars was the Phoenix in 2008, but it only lasted five months, due to the problems of the last one, NASA is preparing for the worst with this rover. Mars has frigid winters that dip over hundreds of degrees below zero, but the solar InSight is prepared for the cold.
The mission is expected to cost $828 million, and it will take the InSight lander about six months to make it to the planet. Mars is roughly 301 million miles away from here, so if everything ends up going to plan it will make it by November 26, 2018.
According to NASA the launch may be visible, “the launch may be visible in California from Santa Maria to San Diego,” but only if the conditions are clear.
The InSight spacecraft is going to be connected to the Atlas V rocket, with a couple of tiny, toaster-sized cube satellite. The rocket is going to weigh over 730,000 pounds when it’s fully fueled and ready for blastoff.
The Insight is not like the Mars rover, because the point of this is to treat it like a research station, the NASA scientists hope the lander will help them learn more about how Mars was formed. Mars is a rocky planet like Earth so this insight might change the way we understand our own planet.
Insight’s principal investigator Bruce Banerdt at NASA recently said that “The goal of InSight is nothing less than to better understand the birth of the Earth, the birth of the planet that we live on, and we’re going to do that by going to Mars, which seems a little bit counterintuitive.”
InSight lands on Mars, the spacecraft will spend 7 minutes decelerating from 12,500 mph to about 5 mph, before dropping down on the rocky surface.
“How we get from a ball of featureless rock into a planet that may or may not support life is a key question in planetary science, and these processes that do this all happen in the first tens of millions of years, which is just a few seconds at the beginning of the life of a planet that lasts 4.5 billion years. We’d like to be able to understand what happened, and the clues to that are in the structure of the planet that gets set up in these early years, Banerdt said at a NASA news conference on March 29th.
The Solar powered InSight will stay for around 708 sols, which is about 728 days on Earth.
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Interview from Bruce Banerdt