JPL: InSight to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars

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InSight Has a Thermometer for Mars

Post by bystander » Wed Aug 29, 2018 7:42 pm

InSight Has a Thermometer for Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Aug 28
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Ambitious climbers, forget Mt. Everest. Dream about Mars.

The Red Planet has some of the tallest mountains in the solar system. They include Olympus Mons, a volcano nearly three times the height of Everest. It borders a region called the Tharsis plateau, where three equally awe-inspiring volcanoes dominate the landscape.

But what geologic processes created these features on the Martian surface? Scientists have long wondered -- and may soon know more.

NASA and DLR (German Aerospace Center) plan to take the planet's temperature for the first time ever, measuring how heat flows out of the planet and drives this inspiring geology. Detecting this escaping heat will be a crucial part of a mission called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

InSight will be the first mission to study Mars' deep interior, using its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument to measure heat as it is conducted from the interior to the planet's surface. This energy was in part captured when Mars formed more than 4 billion years ago, preserving a record of its creation. That energy is also due to the decay of radioactive elements in the rocky interior.
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MarCO Makes Space for Small Explorers

Post by bystander » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:28 pm

MarCO Makes Space for Small Explorers
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MarCO | 2018 Sep 13
Twenty years ago, CubeSats -- a class of boxy satellites small enough to fit in a backpack -- were used by universities as a teaching aid. Simpler, smaller and cheaper than traditional satellites, they've made space more accessible to private companies and science agencies.

This summer, NASA has been flying the first two next-generation CubeSats to deep space. They're currently on their way to Mars, trailing thousands of miles behind the InSight spacecraft. InSight and its CubeSat tag-alongs are already more than halfway to the Red Planet.

The mini-mission, called Mars Cube One (MarCO), has already proved this class of spacecraft can survive the deep-space environment. It will next test the use of miniaturized communication technology to relay data when InSight attempts to land in November. Relaying landing data is one of the jobs of NASA's orbiters, which will record InSight's descent; engineers learn more from every landing attempt. MarCO will test whether this technology can ably perform the relay job for future missions.

To complete their mission, the MarCOs have miniature high-gain antennas and radios that can communicate with Earth from roughly 93 million miles away. Their propulsion systems are capable of steering towards Mars; each MarCO completed its second steering maneuver in August. They even have color cameras, one of which snapped the first image from a CubeSat of the Earth and the Moon -- proof of just how far this technology has literally come. ...
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
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First Image of Mars from a CubeSat

Post by bystander » Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:33 pm

First Image of Mars from a CubeSat
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MarCO | 2018 Oct 22
Click to view full size image 1 or image 2
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's MarCO mission was designed to find out if briefcase-sized spacecraft called CubeSats could survive the journey to deep space. Now, MarCO - which stands for Mars Cube One - has Mars in sight.

One of the twin MarCO CubeSats snapped this image of Mars on Oct. 3 - the first image of the Red Planet ever produced by this class of tiny, low-cost spacecraft. The two CubeSats are officially called MarCO-A and MarCO-B but nicknamed "EVE" and "Wall-E" by their engineering team.

A wide-angle camera on top of MarCO-B produced the image as a test of exposure settings. The MarCO mission, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, hopes to produce more images as the CubeSats approach Mars ahead of Nov. 26. That's when they'll demonstrate their communications capabilities while NASA's InSight spacecraft attempts to land on the Red Planet. (The InSight mission won't rely on them, however; NASA's Mars orbiters will be relaying the spacecraft's data back to Earth.)

This image was taken from a distance of roughly 8 million miles (12.8 million kilometers) from Mars. The MarCOs are "chasing" Mars, which is a moving target as it orbits the Sun. In order to be in place for InSight's landing, the CubeSats have to travel roughly 53 million miles (85 million kilometers). They have already traveled 248 million miles (399 million kilometers).

MarCO-B's wide-angle camera looks straight out from the deck of the CubeSat. Parts related to the spacecraft's high-gain antenna are visible on either side of the image. Mars appears as a small red dot at the right of the image. ...
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
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InSight Will Study Mars While Standing Still

Post by bystander » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:44 pm

InSight Will Study Mars While Standing Still
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Oct 24
You don't need wheels to explore Mars.

After touching down in November, NASA's InSight spacecraft will spread its solar panels, unfold a robotic arm … and stay put. Unlike the space agency's rovers, InSight is a lander designed to study an entire planet from just one spot.

This sedentary science allows InSight to detect geophysical signals deep below the Martian surface, including marsquakes and heat. Scientists will also be able to track radio signals from the stationary spacecraft, which vary based on the wobble in Mars' rotation. Understanding this wobble could help solve the mystery of whether the planet's core is solid.

Here are five things to know about how InSight conducts its science.
  1. InSight Can Measure Quakes Anywhere on the Planet
  2. InSight's Seismometer Needs Peace and Quiet
  3. InSight Has a Self-Hammering Nail
  4. InSight Can Land in a Safe Spot
  5. InSight Can Measure Mars' Wobble
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
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The Mars InSight Landing Site Is Just Plain Perfect

Post by bystander » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:29 pm

The Mars InSight Landing Site Is Just Plain Perfect
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 05
No doubt about it, NASA explores some of the most awe-inspiring locations in our solar system and beyond. Once seen, who can forget the majesty of astronaut Jim Irwin standing before the stark beauty of the Moon's Hadley Apennine mountain range, of the Hubble Space Telescope's gorgeous "Pillars of Creation" or Cassini's magnificent mosaic of Saturn?

Mars also plays a part in this visually compelling equation, with the high-definition imagery from the Curiosity rover of the ridges and rounded buttes at the base of Mount Sharp bringing to mind the majesty of the American Southwest. That said, Elysium Planitia - the site chosen for the Nov. 26 landing of NASA's InSight mission to Mars - will more than likely never be mentioned with those above because it is, well, plain. ...

Yes, the landing site of NASA's next Mars mission may very well look like a stadium parking lot, but that is the way the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) project likes it.

"Previous missions to the Red Planet have investigated its surface by studying its canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil," said Banerdt. "But the signatures of the planet's formation processes can be found only by sensing and studying evidence buried far below the surface. It is InSight's job to study the deep interior of Mars, taking the planet's vital signs – its pulse, temperature and reflexes."

Taking those vital signs will help the InSight science team look back to a time when the rocky planets of the solar system formed. The investigations will depend on three instruments:

Five Things to Know About InSight's Mars Landing
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Oct 31
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
— Garrison Keillor