Mars InSight Landing

(11.26) And some fun news from Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. First, the NASA Mars Insight Mission is on target for a landing at 3pm on Monday, and you can share the excitement. Not only does the website have a countdown clock, but a ‘Distance to Mars’ countdown meter that will ultimately read zero. (The Mi/Km feature toggles.) Then we all wait a few minutes for a signal at which time all the scientists burst into cheers and hugs. (As good as any puppy video for easing existential dread.)

InSight is set to touch down on Mars at around noon Pacific (3 p.m. Eastern) on Nov. 26, 2018. The lander will plunge through the thin Martian atmosphere, heatshield first, and use a parachute to slow down. Then, it will fire its retro rockets to slowly descend to the surface of Mars, and land on the smooth plains of Elysium Planitia.

. . . When InSight lands, it will set off a radio signal called a “tone” that radio telescopes on Earth will try to detect. If the craft is healthy and functioning, 7 minutes after landing, it will send a louder beep, according to NASA.

What is the mission of the InSight lander?

The lander seeks the fingerprints of the processes that formed the rocky planets of the solar system, more than 4 billion years ago. It measures the planet’s “vital signs:” its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow) and “reflexes” (precision tracking).

Go here to watch online. NASA TV Broadcast of Landing: 2pm to 3:30pm EST. (Post-landing news briefing at five-ish.)

And in related local news: On Wednesday, scientists at Brown University issued this exciting announcement concerning NASA’s 2020 mission.

After several years of deliberation and input from the science community, NASA has chosen Jezero crater as the landing site for its new Mars rover, which aims to search for signs of past life on the Red Planet.

. . . Jezero, an impact crater 45 kilometers in diameter that was home to an ancient lake, is a spot that Brown University researchers have studied for years and championed during the site-selection process.

Short video: NASA Mars InSight Overview.

Image Credit: Artist’s impression from NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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