This is the best news of the year. (Not that there's been much competition.)
NASA’s InSight lander today successfully fell through the atmosphere of Mars to touchdown in seemingly one piece on the planet's surface. The $810m probe had to execute dozens of steps perfectly in a short period of time as it descended upon the Martian landscape. Tom Hoffman, InSight’s project manager, described the journey …
They keep a lens cap on to protect the under-deck camera from the dust that blown up during landing. They have 12 descent rockets, firing in pulse mode, to bring the lander down to walking speed. That kicks up quite a bit of dust. So they have a lens protector that will be jettisoned today, all being well.
A better photo is from the camera on the robotic arm on top of the deck.
They keep a lens cap on to protect the under-deck camera from the dust that blown up during landing.
The rockets are no joke. Despite all the efforts to protect Curiosity, including using the "sky crane" design, Curiosity's wind sensors were damaged by flying debris during landing.
InSight can drill 16ft! I do hope they drill into a mercury tooth filling, thus confirming humanity's Martian origins:
Overall a nice demo of how political wardrum bangers can't completely stop international scientific collaboration: the main instrument on the probe, the state-of-the art SEIS seismometer, is French. Yay for international science, and we can only hope that angry tweets won't obliterate that in the future.
Sadly, quite often.
IIRC in one year a little under 400 new craters appeared that were visible from orbit (which is how they were detected).
Mar's surface atmospheric pressure is 1/160 that of Earth means you don't see many shooting stars.
You'll feel them when they hit the ground.
At not far below orbital speed.
Where is this planet Mar?
" you don't see many shooting stars."
"Scientists think four times as many comets dust Mars with their tails compared to our home planet, as a high proportion of comets hang out near Jupiter, the red planet's next-closest neighbor. So there could be many more meteor showers visible from Mars than from Earth."
It's true that there aren't as many people there to see them though...
I agree, but I'm getting tired of the PR stunts like the "six minutes of terror" - I'm sure that when Vikings landed forty years ago, they didn't say such words despite it was even far more difficult back then - but hyperboles looks to be the new normal... still I would prefer scientists giving the good example, and measure their words. But maybe saying silliness is the only way to be picked up by the press today....
"Apollo Control, Houston. Now we are in our period of the longest wait. Thus far in the mission we are 19 minutes, 50 seconds from acquisition at this time. During Mission Control simulations, this was a good time for coffee breaks for the flight controllers, but that is not true today. Continuing to monitor, this is Apollo Control, Houston."
Think of it this way AC, in the build up to landing you can do a lot of things - course corrections, checking hardware, testing software, run simulations, perform tests on earth, etc. But once the lander hits that atmosphere there is literally NOTHING you can do for it. But wait that 7 minutes and hope all of that testing and simulation was right. If that's not Terrifying for the scientists involved I don't know what is. And it's not just the scientists and engineers involved in the landing, all of the instrument scientists and engineers, are waiting to see if their instruments will survive so that they can do the science they want.
Or why don't I put it this way, insight was first conceived about 10 years ago, it's been under design, construction and testing for 5 years. Its cost 800 million dollars, and there are people who have spent 5-10 years working on this and nothing else and whether or not you've just wasted 10 years of your life comes down to a spacecraft 50 million kms away performing flawlessly a series of actions involving heat shields, parachutes and retro rockets, all autonomously where the slightest fuck up week see all of that hard work down the tube and there is nothing you can do about it. You don't consider that Terrifying? Trust me, when it's your instrument - it fucking well is!!!
Why not 6 minutes of terror?
If you'd just sunk 10-15 years of your career into the design, funding and building of a space probe - and were unable to know or control the result of the most complicated and dangerous phase - wouldn't you be worried?
Even more importantly, if you've got budget for studying the results the thing produces for the next 2-5 years, and the thing crashes and burns you're out of a job.
Worried, yes. Very anxious, true. Terrorized, not (I work for an aerospace company). I didn't see people from failed missions jumping out the windows terrorized... and probably they landed into a new job - unlike the probe.
"Terror" has a meaning. We are emptying words from their real meaning - it's what hyperboles in the long run do. When "terror" won't be enough, what will they use?
Again, in Viking times it was even more complex. Far less powerful computers, far less knowledge, more unknowns. And no one AFAIK said he was "terrorized".
Probably because media were less stupid than they are today, now just looking for something biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig to lure clicks in.
“All rocky planets share the same basic structure: an iron core, rocky mantle, and a lighter crust of silica rock,"
How do they know? They haven't drilled yet, it could be a nougat core and chocolate mantle* for all they know!
*I jest as I'm assuming they have an idea of the density based on its rotation, orbital eccentricity etc, but it seems a bit of a leap to then say all rocky planets have an iron core etc.
You may jest, but it is a bit of a bold statement. The Moon*, for instance, is generally not thought to contain an iron core, due to the mechanism of its formation. UNless you define a "rocky planet" as havingthat structure, you can't really claim that it applies to *all* rocky planets, everywhere.
*Yes I know the Moon isnt' technically a planet, but if it was in its own orbit aroud the Sun, it would be considered to be one. It's not a lot smaller than Mercury.
According to the prevalent hypothesis, the moon didn't form in the same way as the inner planets, which coalesced from the protoplanetary disk when the sun formed. The moon was the result of a glancing impact event on the Earth, and as such is made of the lighter stuff of the crust and mantle and therefore has a very small iron core.
Paris, just because we're talking about bumping heavenly bodies.
Well done JPL. I watched the 7 minutes of terror yesterday, and had to keep reminding myself that everything we saw 'live' had already happened 8 minutes ago.
But el Reg? Utter Fail. The headline says that Mars Insight beamed back it's first pictures from Mars, but el Reg uses a stock photo of the ground based duplicate lander.
Score 1 for the article. Lose several 100 for lazy journalism.
Whilst I agree that the IDC photo is more interesting, it wasn't the first picture sent back. The one in the article (not the title pic, the one actually in the article) was the first.
Maybe the article could be updated now another pic has been released by NASA, but at least they got an article out with details available at the time.
If you don't like the way ElReg do things, feel free to find another news source.
Er, at the time of writing:
1. the only image beamed back was the crappy photograph *embedded* *in* *the* *story* so that's the one we went with. More have since arrived, we can link to them now.
2. mobile users don't see the article's top 'hero' picture so they wouldn't see the Mars image if it was used as the header picture. instead, we *embedded* *it* *in* *the* *story*.
3. the image was *embedded* *in* *the* *story*.
"The solar panels are 2 2.2m diameter solar panels producing about 600W at the start of the mission "
OK I've been wrong before :) ... that doesn't seems a bit low, though: That's about 7.6 sqm of panel... so panels are producing about 0.079 kW/sqm, Mars is around 1.5AU from the sun so inverse square law so should be around 2.25 times less than Earth (1kW/sqm), so 0.44kW/sqm.
So efficiency of solar panels would be barely 18%, while the best available panels are close to 40% efficiency. Is there that much dust in the air on Mars to reduce efficiency so much? Or maybe NASA are estimating 600W initial as teh absolute lowest worst-case, and in reality they could have quite more?
"At the right moment, InSight stretched out its legs to absorb any shock as it set itself down on the rocky ground."
But before that happened, and after the parachute opened and the heat shield dropped away, one kilometre above the ground InSight let go of the parachute, fell away, veered out from under it, then slowed to a low constant speed descent right before it hit the ground, turning its pulse engines off as soon as it did, to prevent toppling over. And yes, I would need brown trousers for all that too.
I still find it amazing that pictures such as the one from JPL are from a completely different planet, an entire other world, and yet the photos make the surface of Mars look so familiar, so that you can imagine standing there yourself. It could easily be somewhere in the desert in California rather than a scene from a different planet.
Oh.....I shouldn't have said that last bit, should I?
Atmospheric pressure is pretty low on Mars so not really an issue - although they will still get a layer of sand from sand storms that are strong enough to blow sand around.
Luckily (sometimes) the dust devils also blow it off (the sand, not the rover for those of you in doubt fnar,fnar...)
'I'm reasonably sure the rocket scientists thought of this, but those solar panels look a bit lightweight and flimsy.'
I'm trying to imagine the scenario where the rocket scientists factored in the hypersonic atmospheric entry then deceleration to soft landing and forgot to beef up the solar panel support structure.
Nahh I've got nothing....
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