The Mars Orbiter is getting ready for new InSight. It’s going to perform a series of precisely calculated maneuvers in advance of the next man made object to reach the surface of the Red Planet. InSight is set to launch next year in March.
The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight is a very intricate device that inherits technology from its older, less advanced brother, the Mars Phoenix lander. The latter went to Mars back in 2008, landing in March. Because of this shared tech, the new device will have a smaller price and reduced risk factors.
Still, the little craft will cost a whole $425 million, without including any of the funding needed for the launch, which will pump up that sum considerably.
The Mars Orbiter could not be more excited at the news of another crew member joining its watch. Just like some of us like to prepare our homes for an important visit beginning many days early, so does the MRO.
The precision of space operations never cease to amaze us. This next procedure will have the Orbiter firing six of its rockets for only precisely 77 seconds. This will position it correctly so that when InSight gets there, it will be ready and waiting.
Without the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter positioned at that precise spot, NASA officials say, mission control would not be able to monitor the landing of the small craft. As it is, the device is set to send radio signals to the Orbiter, providing sit-reps periodically and eventually giving the good news that it’s made touchdown – at least, we hope.
The idea for the InSight lander won $3 million in the Discovery Program back in 2010. In 2011 the concept was created. In 2012, in August, the lander was the one selected for launching. The team then moved fast as in 2014, May 19th, building of the device had begun, and by May the 27th, it was already in testing.
Now, the lander is scheduled to launch in March 2016, and will be on the surface of the planet the same year, on September 28th, hopefully.
The lander, once set on the Martian soil, will plant itself in the earth and start gathering geological data to be analyzed by seismologists and geologists back on Earth. The researchers hope to further understand the evolution of the solid planets of our Solar System – mainly Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. And even our Moon, which isn’t technically a planet, but it’s provided extremely relevant information as it also has layers (unlike other moons).
Image source: nasa.gov