Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By Javier West

How to Watch NASA's InSight Touchdown on Mars Live

How to Watch NASA's InSight Touchdown on Mars Live

This is going to be tense. "... So, we're going to go to Mars". To avoid the wind vibrations that could trip up its measurements, it will be placed as far away from the lander as possible, up to the arm's limit of some 1.5 meters away. Compared to other countries, the USA has an impressive record of successfully landing on Mars seven times in 40 years and failing just once.

This focus on the Martian interior explains why the mission team chose such a boring landing site: Cliffs, craters, ancient river deltas and other landscape features would serve only to complicate a safe touchdown. Having launched on May 5, 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as it enters the atmosphere of Mars, InSight will be traveling at 14,100 miles per hour.

The heat shield is discarded, the three landing legs deploy, and the parachute pops out. An inquiry completed past year concluded that onboard computer software errors led to data conflicts, causing the probe to strike Mars at high speed.

"It's taken more than a decade to bring InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars - and even longer since I was first inspired to try to undertake this kind of mission", said Bruce Banerdt of JPL and InSight's principal investigator. The probe will attempt a landing on Monday, Nov. 26, at around 3pm ET (20:00 UTC). This will be followed by a post-landing news conference, which is scheduled to take place at about 5 P.M. EST. You can also watch the landing on YouTube and UStream.

Now, it's important to note that we won't actually get a live video feed from the InSight lander itself, and neither will NASA's engineers and controllers.

InSight's third investigation relies on the lander's radio system. After getting that radar signal, it separated from the remaining shell and parachute, firing its descent engines known as retrorockets to help slow it down even more.

What are the "seven minutes of terror"?

Will you be tuning in for the Mars landing?

The spacecraft will be landing on Elysium Planitia, a large volcanic plain stretching north of Mars' equator.

The space agency's older, smaller Opportunity was roaming around up there until June, when a global dust storm knocked it out of service. Still, this second largest volcanic region on Mars is an ideal place for InSight to land because of the science it is created to perform.

The Nasa Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

Unlike its roving companions, InSight will not be directly searching for signs of life on Mars.

InSight is created to detect Marsquakes.

A pair of mini satellites trailing InSight since their May liftoff provided practically real-time updates of the spacecraft's supersonic descent through the reddish skies. The seismic data collected by InSight will also be used to figure how Mars was formed, and reveal much about its internal structure, which geologists know very little about. Because the entire landing sequence only takes six and a half minutes, the lander would already be on the ground by the time a signal from Earth arrived. They will also provide additional landing data and telemetry for engineers to analyze after the fact, aimed at improving future missions' shots at successfully touching down on Mars.

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