Curiosity Tweets Touching Message Ahead Of The InSight Mars Landing

NASA engineers on the flight team celebrate the In Sight spacecraft's successful landing on Mars at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena Calif. on Monday

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NASA is attempting to land a spacecraft on the surface of Mars Monday to study the interior of the red planet.

According to the Principal Investigator for the instrument, Tilman Spohn, the instrument will tell scientists if Mars and Earth formed from the same "stuff", giving a clue to the how the rocky bodies in the solar system evolved. No lander has dug deeper than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on Mars. InSight isn't a rover.

But before it can carry out that mission, it has to land safely.

Adopting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) engineers have taken the design of the Phoenix lander and adapted it for InSight. "We have no ability to actually, kind of, fly the lander to the surface", Grover says.

For InSight, however, mission managers are slightly more confident than usual.

Then, the probe is to get rid of what's called the cruise stage.

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

The anxiety the landing team goes through, during this event, is why it is known as the Seven Minutes of Terror.

At 14:51 EST the parachute will deploy, with the heat shield ejected seconds later. The intense heating may cause a temporary radio-communications blackout. To mark the occasion, NASA will be livestreaming the event on its dedicated TV channel, through its website and on its social media platforms. At this point, the probe is still traveling faster than the speed of sound, so InSight has a special parachute designed for supersonic speeds. It will only be a series of tones that they send back - the simplest form of information, so the lander can keep focus on its primary job of getting to the surface intact - but the engineers here know how to interpret the meaning of those tones. That spacecraft landed at the north pole of Mars, studied the planet's water cycle, and even observed snowfall. The cubesats are a NASA experiment to determine methods of speedier signal transmissions to and from Mars.

An artist's depiction of In Sight — short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport. The spacecraft has been designed to give Mars its first thorough checkup since the Red Planet formed about 4.5 billion years
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The mission includes two small cube satellites trailing the probe, which are created to help relay real-time data from the craft back to earth, faster than a NASA satellite orbiting Mars could.

The lander is also equipped with a robotic arm that it will use to place HP³ and RISE on the surface of the planet. If InSight comes into too shallow, the spacecraft could skip off the thin atmosphere, and an entry angle that is too steep would produce too much thermal heating.

The smaller, 880-pound (360 kg) InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st USA -launched Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s.

If the MarCOs fail to relay the telemetry, the data will also be stored by other NASA satellites in orbit around Mars, and sent to Earth after the landing.

It's shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas with few, if any, rocks.

The lander is outfitted with two main science instruments - a burrowing heat probe and a trio of incredibly sensitive seismometers.

To make accurate measurements, those instrumentsshouldn't be disturbed.

The mission is expected to last about two Earth-years.

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