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How to watch Monday's InSight landing on Mars from anywhere
26 November 2018, 03:07 | Justin Tyler
NASA’s In Sight spacecraft to attempt to land on Mars on November 26
A spacecraft that cost almost a billion dollars is on course to make a perilous landing on Mars today USA time, if it can survive a high-speed approach and the scorching heat of entering the Red Planet's atmosphere, a process Nasa has nicknamed "six and a half minutes of terror".
On Monday, InSight will follow a similar trajectory, entering the Martian atmosphere at an altitude of 125km, and relying on a combination of heat shield, parachutes, and on-board thrusters to mitigate heating and slow its velocity from almost 20,000 km/hour to about 10 km/h-a factor of 2,000-before its three spindly landing legs touch the surface of Mars. Only about 40 percent of the landers and rovers sent to the red planet during the last five decades have ever made it safely down to the surface, and of the worldwide space agencies that have tried, only NASA has succeeded in making a soft landing on Mars.
It is NASA's first attempt to land on Mars in six years, and anxiety is building.
"What this helps us understand is how we got to here", said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator, during a pre-landing briefing with reporters last week.
France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) made the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, the key element for sensing quakes.
InSight and MarCO flight controllers will monitor the spacecraft's entry, descent and landing (EDL) from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
After the landing, scientists will take it slow and steady with the lander and its scientific instruments.
An artist's rendering shows the InSight Mars rover. In MarCO's case, the new technology is communications equipment that will relay telemetry data from InSight to Earth.
"It takes thousands of steps to go from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, and each one of them has to work perfectly", Rob Manning, the chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a video.
- At 11:40 am Pacific time (1940 GMT), the spacecraft separates from the cruise stage that carried it to Mars.
When it lands six-and-half minutes later, it will be travelling a mere 8kmh.
As the probe enters the atmosphere, the air molecules that make up the Martian atmosphere strike the heat shield, causing the shield to heat up and the craft to slow down. Then, the descent engines, known as retrorockets, begin to fire.
As InSight descends into the Martian atmosphere, it will send radio signals to give an indication of its position.
The tone is important, and is one of a sequence that engineers on Earth will be listening for as InSight passes each landing milestone. Finally, the long-lived 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter will send its own recording of the landing events by 20:35 EST, including confirmation that the vital solar arrays have been deployed.
- At 1951 GMT, the parachutes deploy.
Hoffman, who is father to a two- and four-year-old, added that has "not been sleeping that great", though he said that might because of his rambunctious toddlers.
The US investment in InSight thus far is $813.8m, including $163.4m to actually launch the thing.
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