This is the way NASA plans to prevent its next Martian probe from exploding into pieces like its predecessor

A simulation of InSight approaching Mars. Illustration: NASA / JPL

NASA's new Martian probe is designed to perform geological research at the forefront of the red planet. To do this, you must first land on its surface next Monday. And landing on Mars is not an easy task.

Despite the recent successes of NASA, the global success rate of landings on the surface of Mars is about 40%. The InSight probe will once again tackle the dangerous Martian atmosphere to try to study the ground below the Martian surface and, hopefully, detect "earthquakes" or "Martian earthquakes".

"Whenever you try to land on another planet, it's very exciting", Tom Hoffman, Project Manager at InSight at NASA, told Gizmodo."This will not be for InSight. There are many different challenges that we must overcome to successfully land".

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InSight, acronym for "Exploration of interiors with seismic surveys, geodesy and heat transport", It was launched last May by the West Coast and is scheduled to land at 3:00 pm Eastern Time in the US It has three tools to study the planet: a seismograph to measure sound waves traveling through the ground (the famous "Marsquakes"), a heat sensor that measures how heat flows beneath the surface of Mars and radio antenna to measure the variable position of the North Pole of the planet, to study its core indirectly.These instruments will land on a platform almost identical to the one used by the Phoenix probe to land on the Martian surface.

The InSight probe will have to reduce its speed by several hundred kilometers at the same time to land smoothly. Mars has a subtlest atmosphere on Earth and, consequently, less atmospheric resistance so that the parachute can slow down, and the planet also has gusts of wind that the probe has to deal with. Even if everything proceeds according to plan, a robotic arm must deposit the heat sensor and the seismograph on the ground, something that has never been done before.

Scientists expect InSight to arrive safely in the flat position they thought of as "parking" and not fall on a slope or a large rock. "For me, it will still be exciting even if it is really flat and boring"Suzanne Smrekar, principal assistant investigator at NASA's InSight, told Gizmodo."All this so that we can implement our tools safely and get started quickly"The heat flow sensor can be deposited on the ground more easily when the probe is level, and scientists do not want the seismograph to oscillate if left on a rock.

An image of the InSight test bench. Photo: NASA / JPL

The InSight team worked hard to prepare the probe for various challenges. InSight will land higher than Phoenix and, therefore, will have less time to reduce its speed, so the team has strengthened its parachute; Hoffman told Gizmodo that his team could not break the parachute in a wind tunnel, which is a good sign. Next, light up your rockets to land gently on the surface. Once landed, InSight will immediately take a picture of the Martian surface and scientists will go to work to decide where to place the instruments. However, it will still be between two and three months until the instruments have been completely distributed. Scientists have a test bench with a replica of the InSight probe exposed to false rocks and gravel, to practice and position the instruments with the robotic arm depending on the existing conditions.

Perhaps you know that the last probe to fly on Mars -Schiaparelli, of the European Space Agency- has crashed due to a miscalculation. The InSight team examined what had happened with Schiaparelli and made some changes to the probe software to improve its responses, Hoffman said. The NASA engineers will listen to the radio signals from the probe and monitor them with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and with odyssey, two smaller probes that will go behind InSight and will also try to monitor their InSight progress and transmit those signals to the Earth.

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But once InSight lands, the discoveries you can make are incredible.

"We want to understand how the birth of the rocky planets was during the first tens of millions of years, while they were formed by a molten mass"Smrekar told Gizmodo."This determines the evolution of the rest of the planet".

NASA will publish the landing on Monday from here.



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