Monday, 17 December, 2018

How Redmond sent a NASA mission to Mars

NASA           Mars NASA Mars
Kristen Harrington | 28 November, 2018, 21:37

NASA's InSight mission touched down on the surface of Mars on Monday at approximately 3 p.m. This in turn will be incorporated into humanity's more general knowledge of how rocky worlds form, from Earth and the Moon to exoplanets such as those in the Trappist-1 system.

You can find more information on NASA's Mars mission here.

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 was largely ineffective.

I wrote about it back in 2017; while not a game, it's still a very game-looking program, which serves as an interactive model of what a realistic colony on Mars might actually look like.

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The InSight name is short for "Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport".

There is also the rotation and interior structure experiment (RISE). DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. And InSight's magnetometer and weather sensors are taking readings of the landing site, Elysium Planitia - "the biggest parking lot on Mars".

Coincidentally, InSight is relatively close to Curiosity, about 600 kilometers north from the rover's position in Gale Crater. They are now the two closest man-made objects on the surface of Mars. Although Mars receives less sunlight than Earth, InSight doesn't need much power to conduct its science experiments.

Described as "a tool to allow users to explore and learn about a potential future Mars colony", the base depicted is "grounded in real possibilities, informed by real science with direct guidance and feedback from NASA and JPL scientists about the technological and material constraints for building human habitation on the red planet".

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When InSight entered the atmosphere the lander itself will be protected by its heat shield. Dozens of operations and thousands of lines of code were pre-programmed into the machinery and memory of the spacecraft and by all accounts they executed perfectly.

The team at Aerojet Rocketdyne has been watching the progress of the mission anxiously since the launch vehicle sent the spacecraft on its way, through its long flight from Earth to Mars, and then in the final, terrifying moments as the craft approached the surface of the red planet. NASA says we should expect data back from the experiments around March 2019.

The twin "Cubesats" tagging along for the flight to Mars represented the first deep-space use of a miniature satellite technology that space engineers see as a promising low-priced alternative to some larger, more complex vehicles.

An image of Mars taken MarCO-B two days before InSight landed. They are the first CubeSats sent into deep space. "The success of these two unique missions is a tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who put their genius and labor into making this a great day".

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