Monday, November 26, 2018

'InSight' Space Probe to Land on Mars Monday Afternoon

Mars map of landing zone target for the Mars InSight Lander, plus other NASA probe landing sites.
(Image Sources: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology,

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

On Monday Afternoon (November 26), the latest NASA space probe to the Planet Mars, called 'InSight' (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), is expected to land on the Red Planet. NASA will provide several ways to follow the landing on-line.

Launched on May 5, InSight will be the first new NASA spacecraft to land on Mars since 2012, when the Curiosity Rover landed. Officially, InSight's mission will last two years; but if other NASA missions to Mars are any indication, it may last much longer.

Unlike the rover missions, InSight is a lander that will land in a flat area near the Martian equator, to better achieve the mission's objectives. The Mars InSight Lander is NASA's first mission to probe the interior of the planet. The $850 million InSight mission has three primary objectives ---

  1. Seismometer to record 'Mars-quakes' as well as meteor impacts. As the only seismometer on Mars, it includes additional sensors measuring weather readings such as wind speed and barometric pressure, which could be misinterpreted as a Mars-quake. Eventually, after gathering seismic data, scientists hope to be able to map geologic layers within Mars, perhaps including water.
  2. A pair of precise radio transmitters, by bouncing radio signals between Earth and Mars, will help scientists identify the exact location of InSight on the surface of Mars. And, as Mars rotates, scientists will be able to measure the tiny wobbles, that could help determine the planet's interior structure—particularly whether the planetary core is solid or partially liquid.
  3. A heat probe, which will be hammered 16 feet / 5 meters into the Martian surface (much deeper than the mere inches of previous planetary probes) will measure how heat is rising through the planet. It will also produce its own brief flashes of heat, to study how the heat flows through the Martian rocks which surround the InSight landing site.

Launched along with InSight on May 5 were two separate 'cube-sats' known as the Mars Cube One mission, which NASA hopes will be able to document the landing of InSight. Mars Cube One is an experimental demonstration mission consisting of two nano-spacecraft. Each known as a 'cube-sat,' titled as such as the first ones were launched as 'sats' or satellites of the Earth, the two nano-spacecraft will actually fly-by Mars without going into orbit of the Red Planet (although, eventually, these two nano-spacecraft may go into orbit around the Sun, but far away from the Sun).

There are about 80 special viewing events around the world, where people can go to follow the InSight landing. You can learn where these events are located at this Internet link:

There are several Internet web-sites where you can follow the InSight landing, directly:

The following are the projected times, as reported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, of the events leading to InSight's landing on Mars on Monday Afternoon, 2018 November 26 ---
  • 2:40 p.m. EST / 19:40 UTC - Separation from the cruise stage that carried the mission to Mars
  • 2:41 p.m. EST / 19:41 UTC - Turn to orient the spacecraft properly for atmospheric entry
  • 2:47 p.m. EST / 19:47 UTC - Atmospheric entry at about 12,300 mph /19,800 kph, beginning the entry, descent and landing phase
  • 2:49 p.m. EST / 19:49 UTC - Peak heating of the protective heat shield reaches about +2,700°F / +1,500°C
  • 15 seconds later - Peak deceleration, with the intense heating causing possible temporary dropouts in radio signals
  • 2:51 p.m. EST / 19:51 UTC - Parachute deployment
  • 15 seconds later - Separation from the heat shield
  • 10 seconds later - Deployment of the lander's three legs
  • 2:52 p.m. EST / 19:52 UTC - Activation of the radar that will sense the distance to the ground
  • 2:53 p.m. EST / 19:53 UTC - First acquisition of the radar signal
  • 20 seconds later - Separation from the back shell and parachute
  • 0.5 second later - The retrorockets, or descent engines, begin firing
  • 2.5 seconds later - Start of the "gravity turn" to get the lander into the proper orientation for landing
  • 22 seconds later - InSight begins slowing to a constant velocity (from 17 mph to a constant 5 mph / from 27 kph to 8 kph) for its soft landing
  • 2:54 p.m. EST / 19:54 UTC - Expected touchdown on the surface of Mars
  • 3:01 p.m. EST / 20:01 UTC - "Beep" from InSight's X-band radio directly back to Earth, indicating InSight is alive and functioning on the surface of Mars
  • No earlier than 3:04 p.m. EST / 20:04 UTC, but possibly the next day - First image from InSight on the surface of Mars
  • No earlier than 8:35 p.m. EST / Nov. 27, 1:35 UTC - Confirmation from InSight via NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter that InSight's solar arrays have deployed.
Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Mars InSight Space Probe -
Link 1 >>>
Link 2 >>>
Link 3 >>>

NASA News Release: "NASA Brings Mars Landing, First in Six Years, to Viewers Everywhere Nov. 26." Link >>>

Image: Laser RetroReflector on the top deck of the Mars InSight space lander, for laser range-finding from Martian orbit and future node in a proposed Mars geophysical network:
Link >>>

Related Blog Post ---

"NASA InSight Space Lander on Way to Mars." Monday, 2018 May 7.

Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Monday, 2018 November 26.

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Glenn A. Walsh --- < >
Electronic Mail: < >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991. Formerly Trustee of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < >

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