Tiny satellites will report Earth on landing InSight


The next spaceship that will land on Mars brings its communication team. InSight, which on November 26th on the Red Planet route touched down, is accompanied by a pair of spacecraft sending details of landing in the Earth in almost real time.

Dual vessels on this mission are CubeSats – small, cheap satellites that are easy to build and run. Named Mars Cube One or MarCO for a short time will fly past Mars as Earth InSight and become the smallest space ship ever entrusted with tasks is essential to transmit landing data for mission. Now, near Mars, they are already the first CubeSats, which are so far from Earth. If everything goes well with InSight's landing, future Mars missions could also have their own one-time use team.

"The future where landlords and rovers bring their landing communication systems would be fantastic," says engineer Joel Krajewski of NASA's Laboratory for Drive Systems in Pasadena, California, and Marco Software Programmer.

InSight – short for internal research using seismic research, geodesy and heat transport – will bring the first seismometer to Mars (SN: 5/26/18, p. 13). When you point down in a wide, flat plane called the Elysium Planitia near the Mars Equator, the landlady will be perfectly calm to listen to seismic waves and measurements as the heat flows through the interior of the Red Planet. The results will help scientists understand how Mars and possibly other rocky planets, such as Earth, were formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

While InSight will enter the Martian atmosphere, at a speed of nearly 1000 meters per second, until the feet touch the ground. Spacecraft will use a parachute and rockets aimed at slowing the ground to approximately 2.4 meters per second. Speed ​​signals from CubeSats or Insight will then travel between Earth and Mars, so NASA engineers will hear that InSight has entered the Mars atmosphere, the spacecraft will be on the ground.

"It's terrifying," says Farah Alibay, a research engineer for the drive drive. "Whether it's silent or quite difficult, we will not know. But we'll know when you get the first first data, InSight has already agreed."

We're listening

MarCO CubeSats will observe the InSight descent to the surface of Mars (red line) and send details of landing back to Earth before proceeding past the planet.

For most of the previous missiles on Mars, one of the big orbits, currently circulating on the red planet, had to stop its data in order to watch the event and send the data to Earth. Orbiter, who will be in the best position to watch InSight, will be NASA's Mars Orbiter. While this space ship will observe the landing, it will not be able to transmit any details to the Earth for at least three hours, as its orbit takes the vessel to Mars from the Earth's viewpoint and blocks communication.

"Three to four hours is no longer for most people, but it's very long for us," says Alibay. "Landing is the worst part of your mission." Waiting for the knowledge of the landing of a spacecraft is like waiting for news of your beloved's health, he says.

In order to avoid this wait, the team sent the twins to CubeSats. The space ship, which started with InSight, has already traveled in deep space since May of May. Marco vessels can change their way by launching compressed cold gas, similar to the way the fire extinguisher operates – which he earned with the nicknames Wall-E and Eve between the team, along the space characters of the Disney robot. "We have shown that CubeSat can leave the Earth orbit, survive the harsh environment and go towards Mars," says Alibay.

Approximately five minutes before InSight hits the summit of the marine atmosphere, both MarCO vessels will position themselves to follow the landing party all the way to the earth and immediately send the details back to Earth. Each works independently and supports each other.

If everything goes well, MarCO could set a precedent for future Mars tasks. Mars's existing orbits will be able to support two missions of Mars in 2020 – NASA's Mars-rover and ExoMars rover, run by the European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency. But after that, the future is obscured.

"There is currently no active orbiter plan beyond the time frame," says Krajewski. In addition, the existing orbital fuel for fuel should be brought into the right position and viewed by other spaces of space vessels, which shortens the life of orbits. Sending future spacecraft with its CubeSat communication team could help scientists monitor landing without compromising scientific missions of large orbits.

By InSight, Marco's work will be done. Small vessels do not have enough fuel or the right equipment to enter the long-term orbit around Mars. Instead, MarCO will "farewell" and continue, "says Krajewski.

You can watch InSight on NASA on the Internet.


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