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InSight: The jeopardy of landing on Mars

InSight: The jeopardy of landing on Mars

  • 2 November 2018
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Media captionNasa's Insight video is fronted by chief engineer Rob Manning

The American space agency has released a video describing the perilous journey its InSight probe will make to the surface of Mars later this month.

Fronted by Rob Manning, the chief engineer at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the film describes the various stages of what is termed "entry, descent and landing", or EDL.

It is a sequence of high jeopardy.

The agency produced a similar video for its Curiosity Mars lander in 2012 called The 7 Minutes of Terror.

That became a viral hit. This one isn't quite so showy but is nonetheless very successful in communicating the drama of a landing on Mars.

Launched from Earth back in May, Insight is still (Friday) a couple of million km from the Red Planet.

The arrival time is fixed, says Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL.

"We're going to land on November 26 at about 11:47 Pacific time (19:47 GMT) regardless of anything. That is, we're on a ballistic entry; we can't change it; we can't go back around," he told reporters this week.

InSight is a static probe. In other words, it will sit still in one place; it will not rove around the planet like Curiosity and Nasa's other wheeled robots.

It will be the first mission to focus its investigations predominantly on the interior of Mars.

It is going to put seismometers on the surface to feel for "Marsquakes".

These tremors should reveal how the underground rock is layered - data that can be compared with Earth to shed further light on the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.

The seismometer experiment is French-led. The European nation has provided the broadband sensors that will detect low-frequency vibrations of the ground, while the UK has contributed a trio of microseismometers, about the size of a pound coin, that will go after the higher frequencies.

The British instrument was developed at Imperial College London and Oxford University. Its principal investigator is Prof Tom Pike.

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Media captionTom Pike: The relationship between life and a planet's interior is profound