NASA is about to take a big step in understanding the Red Planet. The InSight lander will touchdown on Martian soil Monday, November 26th. The goal of this mission is to study what’s below the surface.
InSight was launched on May 5, 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. This is the first interplanetary launch from the west coast. The lander spent the last six and half months speeding through space at an average speed of 6,625 mph. And that’s not the most dramatic part of the flight.
Engineers say entry, descent, and landing will be “seven minutes of terror.” InSight will parachute through the thin Martian atmosphere, heat shield first. An area known as Elysium Planitia will make for a soft landing spot. Other Mars rovers have also landed on flat, smooth plain. This will also home for the next two years.
InSight will spend 709 sols (728 Earth days) on the Martian surface. Operations begin minutes after landing, once the dust settles. The lander will power up it solar arrays and, like any good millennial, snap a photo to document it’s arrival.
The mission is less focused on geology like other landers and rovers. The goal is study the interior of Mars and take it’s vitals – pulse and temperature. The a few weeks the lander will insert of heat probe and seismometer into the Martian soil. InSight will then sit still and listen.
NASA will stream InSight’s landing Monday afternoon. Touchdown will be around 3 PM Eastern. Check it out here.