InSight's new home in the middle of Elysium Planitia, a wide, relatively smooth expanse close to the planet's equator, is roughly 373 miles (600 km) from the 2012 landing spot of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity, the last spacecraft sent to the Red Planet by NASA.
The NASA Insight Mission will take place on Monday, November 26.
Minutes later, JPL controllers received a fuzzy "selphie" photograph of the probe's new surroundings on the Red Planet, showing the edge of one lander leg beside a rock. The beauty of this mission is happening below the surface. That's like scoring a soccer goal from about 80,000 miles away, and doing it at an exactly 12 degree angle to prevent burning up or skipping off the atmosphere. When the capsule hits the atmosphere, it will be traveling at 12,300 miles per hour. And so, we want to apply the same techniques but use the waves that are generated by Mars quakes, by meteorite impacts to probe deep into the interior of Mars all the way down to its core. The lander will be broadcasting information during entry, descent and landing in the UHF band to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which can not simultaneously receive in one band and transmit in another. Were the probe a 150-pound human, during the flaming descent, it would weigh almost a ton.
The parachute is expected to deploy at supersonic velocities, and it is hard or impossible to mathematically model the process completely or to test the process in a wind tunnel, Banerdt explained.
In another two minutes, a supersonic parachute deployed to help slow down the spacecraft.
That heat shield is thicker than on previous missions to protect the mission from heavy dust in the atmosphere/ InSight's engineers built the lander with dust storms in mind.
InSight will use rockets to stabilize the probe and set it gently on the martian surface.
The Nasdaq building's massive seven-story screen will show the InSight landing in the middle of Manhattan on Monday. "Seismology is one of the ways that we really confirmed plate tectonics on the Earth, looking at where all the earthquakes bunch along plate boundaries, and it allowed us to see where the plate boundaries were". It will be done automatically, entirely by the probe itself. But if there's only one ideal instrument site, the seismometer takes priority, Golombek says, as it is InSight's primary scientific payload. Mars is a graveyard of failed probes. 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. Eighteen have been successful. Scientists hope that InSight will uncover signs of tectonic activity and clues about the planet's past. InSight will not move around. "We have done everything we can think to make sure we are going to be successful, but you just never know what is going to happen", he said.
But the parachute won't carry InSight all the way to the surface.
There are many reasons this is interesting.
The British seismic measuring tool will help scientists understand the inside of Mars, which has not yet been studied in depth. "But everything has to go perfectly, and Mars could always throw us a curveball", he added".
And if you're more of an explorer kind of person and not so interested in Martian geology, it will also tell us how warm the planet is at modest depths, which will tell us if there is any chance of liquid water on the planet. A relatively recent possible discovery of a buried Martian lake was promising, but the data was not conclusive.
The planetary know-how gained from InSight's two-year operation could even spill over to rocky worlds beyond our solar system, according to Banerdt.