InSight spacecraft landed on Mars – why do engineers call landing a miracle

File Science

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The descent module with the Mars apparatus InSight landed on the Red Planet. In the near future, NASA engineers will check all of its equipment and get down to work, which for the first time involves more than just studying stones on the surface.

The device is equipped with a special tool that allows you to make a hole up to 5 m deep. By earthly standards this is more than modest (industrial wells for oil and gas can be 5 km deep), but all past missions to Mars allowed at best to scrape off only a few centimeters from stone explorers.

The cutter on the Curiosity mars rover is closer to a conventional drill in its characteristics, and the “laser gun” on the same machine is not designed to burn holes at all: its purpose was to evaporate a tiny piece of rock to analyze the spectrum of the resulting flash.

Immersion is not centimeters, and meters, however, will not give an opportunity to look at the samples. The purpose of InSight is not to collect soil from the layers deeper, but to measure the heat flux coming from the depths of Mars.

This information will allow a better understanding of the structure of the planet, especially together with the readings of the seismometer, which is also equipped with a new device.

The seismometer will be set up near the InSight using a special manipulator, but obviously not too soon – several months have been allocated for the entire preparation for the start of full-fledged observations.

– Bad story –

More than half of the vehicles that were supposed to make a soft landing on Mars did not cope with their task. The Soviet WW2-3 was lost at launch, as well as the Mars-96, Mars-4 and Mars-7 flew past, but most of the vehicles crashed during landing. Mars-2, American Mars Polar Lander, European Beagle-2 and Schiaparelli.

The Soviet “Mars-3” was able to sit down (the first in the world!) And even transmit a short message, but the connection was cut off, so this mission can also be recorded as “partially successful” at best.

Failures were pursued not only by the designers of the 1960s, but also by specialists at the beginning of the 21st century. The onboard computer of the Schiaparelli descent vehicle incorrectly determined the altitude, and the module crashed during a collision at a speed of about 300 km/s.

The fall of Schiaparelli was later found using a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite with a high-resolution camera, and the pictures show a characteristic black spot from the explosion of fuel tanks.

Landing on the Red Planet is still classified as a complex operation with a high degree of risk. But the successful delivery of InSight to the place of work with the help of previously developed solutions inspires optimism: perhaps, the engineers still managed to turn the tide in their favor.


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