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On Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, human beings will reach out again and “touch the surface of a foreign world.” NASA’s InSight Lander has been traveling across the solar system for the past seven months, and it is scheduled to land on the flat plains of Elysium Planitia on Mars at 3 p.m. ET.
Even though the landing will be taking place 91 million miles from Earth, people will still have the opportunity to enjoy this historic event.
NASA TV will be broadcasting the landing live online between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The landing can also be viewed from other sites, such as Facebook and Space.com.
Additionally, NASA has a list of viewing parties that will take place around the United States, including Time Square and the American Museum of Natural History in New York; the California Science Center in Los Angeles; and at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. There will also be viewing parties around the world.
What Should Be Happening
The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight lander will push through the thin atmosphere of Mars using small rockets. Then, it will deploy parachutes to slow its fall to the surface. Retro rockets will be used to “stick the landing.” This event should take six minutes from the time the lander reaches Mars’ atmosphere until it touches down on the surface. This is if everything goes according to plan.
The lander could possibly face dust storms in the northern hemisphere, where it is scheduled to land. The autumn storms on Mars have grown larger over the years, according to NASA.
What Viewers Will See
There will be several NASA commentators and most likely there will be some mock-up landing footage, because there are places on Earth that does not have great reception. It is difficult to communicate between planets; therefore, NASA might not know if the landing was successful until several hours after the scheduled landing time.
When InSight lands it will send a radio signal called a “tone.” Radio telescopes on Earth will try to detect the tone. If the craft is functioning, seven minutes after it lands, the InSight will send out a louder tone, according to NASA.
The Mars InSight will be greeted by NASA’s Mars Odyssey which will take some photographs. Additionally, there are two experimental spacecraft traveling behind the lander that may take pictures. All of these machines and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which serves as a sort of spacecraft “black box,” will feed information and clues on the lander success, or failure, back to Earth.
If everything goes as planned, the InSight lander will spend its lifetime on Mars listening to vibrations under the surface of the planet, called “marsquakes.” This will help researchers understand how rocky planets were formed.
Why This Mission Is Important
NASA is excited to be broadcasting the event, but it is also hyping up the difficulty of the descent and landing piece of the mission. As reported by The Verge, landing the car-sized InSight lander will be difficult. The lander will have to slow from 12,000 mph to zero in less than seven minutes.
NASA reports that only 40 percent of this missions sent to Mars, by any space agency, have been successful. “The U.S. is the only nation whose missions have survived a Mars landing.”
Mars has a thin atmosphere, just one percent of the Earth’s. This means that there is very little friction to slow the spacecraft. Regardless, NASA has had a long and successful track record on Mars. “Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed on, and roved across the surface of the Red Planet.”
The InSight lander was launched on May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The notable mission is to study the interior of Mars using a self-hammering probe that will dig the deepest yet to study the interior of the planet and look for Marsquakes.
InSight could become the first, since the Apollo missions, to place a seismometer on the surface of another moon or planet. It is the first spacecraft to land on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012.
By Jeanette Smith
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