NASA’s InSight Mars Landing: a ‘6.5 Minutes of Terror’
A spacecraft costing nearly a billion dollars is about to land dangerously on Mars on Monday, if it can survive a high-speed approach and the overwhelming heat that enters the atmosphere of the red planet. NASA nicknamed “six and a half years”. minutes of terror. ”
“There is very little room for things to go wrong,” said Rob Grover, head of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s entry, landing and landing team at Pasadena, California.
If successful, the entry, descent and landing of Mars InSight, designed to be the first mission to listen to the inside of another planet and reveal the formation of rocky planets, will add another success to the record. from NASA in sending a spacecraft to Mars. .
So far, the United States is the only country that has achieved this goal, and only NASA’s Curiosity unmanned robotics robot is still spinning around the surface.
Countdown to Mars
There will be no live video transmission of the Mars Insight approach on Monday, and signals will be broadcast back to Earth within eight minutes.
Heads of Mission can not intervene in case of problems. The complete landing sequence is preprogrammed on the onboard computer.
Here’s what you can expect:
– At 1140 Pacific Time (1940 GMT), the ship is separated from the cruise stage which took her to Mars. A minute later, the boat makes a turn to move towards the entrance of the atmosphere.
At 19:07 GMT, the spacecraft traveled 19,800 km / h (12,300 mph) as it began to enter the Mars atmosphere.
– Two minutes later, friction with the atmosphere raises the temperature of the heat shield to a maximum of 2700 degrees Fahrenheit (1500 degrees Celsius). This intense heat could cause temporary losses of radio signals.
At 19:51 GMT, the parachutes are deployed. Fifteen seconds later, the heat shield separates from the spacecraft. Ten seconds later, the three legs of the landing gear unfurl to prepare for landing.
– At 19:52 GMT, a radar is activated to detect the distance to the ground.
Mars Insight’s approach will not be broadcast live by video on Monday and signals will be broadcast back to Earth within eight minutes.
Heads of Mission can not intervene in case of problems. The complete landing sequence is preprogrammed on the on-board computer.
Here’s what you can expect:
– At 19:53 local time, the first radar signal is expected, followed 20 seconds later by the separation of the spacecraft from the aft hull and parachute. Then, the descent engines, known as retrorockets, start shooting. The speed of InSight drops dramatically from 17 mph to a constant speed of 5 mph (27 km / h) for a smooth landing.
– A touchdown is expected at 19:54 GMT.
– The first “beep” of the spacecraft X-band radio, which indicates if InSight has survived the landing, is scheduled for 2001 GMT.
– The first image of the surface of Mars is expected for 2004 GMT. However, this picture may not arrive until Tuesday.
– The orbital configuration of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, flying over his head, means that NASA will not know until Tuesday 1:35 whether the InSight solar panels have been deployed or not. This step is crucial because the seismic sensor is piloted by the Sun for its one-year mission.