InSight is preparing to land on Mars

    Tonight in the region of 22:54 MSC must land on Mars InSight. Despite the fact that it is based on the technical solutions of the Phoenix probe, which successfully sat in 2008, it is still an exciting time - more than half of the Martian missions failed, and the last attempt, the Schiaparelli apparatus, crashed to the surface in 2016. I hope the waiting will brighten up the story about the latest mission news, the landing process and how you can look at the landing simulation in the Orbiter simulator.

    Braking in dense atmospheres, NASA illustration


    On the evening of November 25, the last pre-landing briefing was held , which said that:

    The calculated landing ellipse is shown on the gif. On November 18, the fifth correction of the trajectory was made, so it moved to the right. The refinement of the trajectory of the apparatus showed that the ellipse had gone too far, and in its right part a less suitable relief. Therefore, the sixth correction, 22 hours before the landing, which was already thought to be canceled by consulting, still decided to carry out. InSight will change the speed by only a few centimeters per second and will have to move the calculated ellipse by 17 km.

    The main source of information about the state of InSight will be the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter - a device that has been operating in the orbit of Mars for many years. But information from it will be available only after 3 hours. At the same time, stations on Earth will receive InSight signals directly. They will measure its Doppler shift associated with a change in the speed of the probe, therefore, most likely, they will be able to record the opening of the parachute, the drop of the heat shield and, of course, the landing. InSight should also send a signal in the X-band after a successful landing. Previous missions to Mars worked on similar algorithms, and practice has shown that there is little information, or it arrives late. Therefore, as an experiment, two cubesats fly alongside InSight - MarCO -A and -B.

    MarCO, NASA photo

    Their task will be to receive real-time data from InSight in the VHF band and relay them to Earth in the X-band. So far, both MarCOs are working fine, but since this is the first attempt, there is no guarantee that everything will succeed.

    Mutual arrangement of devices

    If everything goes well, then the probe will have time to partially transmit one photograph of the landing site. It is expected that it will be very "boring", without stones and bumps. This not only improves landing safety, but is also useful for science - I remind you that one of the tasks of InSight is to immerse a five-meter tape with thermometers in Mars, which the stones will interfere with. At a briefing, the creators of the device expressed confidence that the probe would plunge at least 3 meters, and, most likely, be able to fully deploy.

    At the same time, if the “beep” in the X-band is not fixed, this does not necessarily mean a complete failure of the mission - InSight may go into safe mode.

    And here is one of the telemetry pages of the probe. They will peer at the MCC operators, observing the landing.

    It is also worth noting that the critical stage of the deployment of solar panels will end more than five hours after landing, and InSight will unload scientific instruments to the surface for more than two months. You can read more about InSight devices here .


    As with the Curiosity rover, the landing is called the “seven minutes of horror”, although in the case of InSight it will last six and a half minutes. Landing consists of three stages. Dropping the flight stage shortly before entering the atmosphere, InSight will extinguish approximately 90% of the energy, braking in the atmosphere, covered by an aero envelope with thermal protection. Then about 90% of the remaining energy will be taken over by a supersonic parachute. And, finally, dropping the bottom of the aerial shell and opening the landing supports, InSight will "jump" down and begin to descend on pulse engines. Most recently, Lockheed Martin released an epic landing video.

    But we have an even more interactive way to watch the InSight landing, because the brianj enthusiast made an addition to the Orbiter space simulator. At the same time, both the simulator and the add-on are free. So, we need:

    Unpack the addition to the simulator folder and select the InSight Mars Approach

    script. The script is good because it does not require any action from the user, you just look at the landing.

    We fly to Mars. Acceleration / deceleration of R / T time, camera rotation after right-clicking.

    Use the J button to reset the flight step.

    The initial velocity of entry into the atmosphere is approximately 5.5 km / s.

    Descent by parachute, heat shield dropped, supports opened.

    At an altitude of 1.1 km, InSight is separated from the parachute and the upper part of the aerial shell.

    In the previous version of Orbiter, 2010, all the planets were perfectly round. Now an honest terrain has appeared, and the landing algorithm should take into account the real height above the surface.

    Have a landing! If desired, open the solar panels with the K button, then use the V, B, N buttons (Shift-V, B, N - in the opposite direction) to turn the manipulator, G (to grab / release) - we lift scientific instruments from the platform and put on the surface.

    Additional Information:

    UPD: The landing is successful, the solar panels are open, there are first photos.



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