NASA is in the countdown until Mars landing on the Mars Insight, something that will happen next Monday. The cost of the investigation was $ 993 million and is the first capable of listening to earthquakes and studying the internal functioning of another rocky planet.
The drone spacecraft launched almost seven months ago and traveled about 482 million kilometers.
Part of his mission is to transmit information to send human researchers one day to the red planet, something NASA hopes to achieve in the 2030s.
The launch of the Mars probe is the first since 2012, when the NASA explorer for curiosity landed on the surface and analyzed rocks for signs of life that may have lived on the planet to the Earth, now cold and dry.
InSight must survive the difficult entry into the atmosphere of the red planet: it is currently traveling at a speed of 19,800 kilometers per hour, and once it has to be quickly reduced to just 8 kilometers per hour.
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The entry, descent and landing phase will begin on Monday (17:47) local time. NASA alludes to that phase as "six and a half minutes of terror".
Of the 43 missions launched on Mars, only 18 have reached a red planet, a success rate of about 40%, and all came from the United States.
"Going to Mars is very, very difficult," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Assistant Administrator, Directorate for Scientific Missions.
The drone ship.
The name InSight is translated into "internal research" that refers to seismic research, geodesy and heat transfer.
With full fuel consumption, InSight weighs over 360kg, almost the same as Harley Davidson's motorcycle. If you deploy the solar panels, you can measure nearly 6 meters.
Its central instrument is an earthquake detection seismometer made by the French Space Agency (CNES).
"This is NASA's only mission that is conceived around an instrument that made it foreign," Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of CNES, told AFP.
Therefore, he added, "it is a fundamental mission both for the United States and France," because it will allow Mars to better understand.
The six sensors of the earthquake are so sensitive that they need to discover the smallest shocks of Mars, such as the weak dragging of their moon Phobos, the impact of meteors and probably the evidence of volcanic activity.
The ship also has a self-contained probe that allows excavation at a depth of 3 to 5 meters and will allow the realization of the first accurate measurement of the underground temperatures of Mars, as well as the amount of heat that escapes from its interior
The InSight landing will be softened by a parachute that will allow the speed of the drone to fall to 19,800 km / h. His thermal shield will help slow down the ship and protect it from friction that will generate its entry into the atmosphere of the red planet.
The landing site will be in a flat area called Elysium Planitia, which NASA described as "the largest parking lot on Mars."
The US space agency will know in a matter of minutes whether the landing is successful or not, but it will have to wait more than five hours to confirm that an unmanned spacecraft can deploy the equipment without any inconvenience.
They will seek signs of life on the red planet
The NASA spacecraft, which will begin in 2020, will ask for clues as to whether life on Mars was alive, by analyzing the rocks of an ancient lake and the delta, two geographical features that can preserve the signs of ancient organisms, announced a few days the US space agency.
The ship will land on a crater of 45 kilometers in diameter, which was once home to the river, so it could have preserved signs of organic molecules and microorganisms, experts explain.