Mars is about to get the first US visitor for years: a bitch, an armed geologist to dig deep and hear about earthquakes.
NASA's InSight makes its big entrance through Monday's silver star after a six-month trip of 300 million miles (480 million kilometers).
It will be the first American spacecraft to land by the Curiosity traveler in 2012 and the first dedicated to exploring the underground.
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The depiction shows the InSight drilling on Mars surface. InSight, short for Inland Exploration with Seismic Surveys, Geodesy and Heat Transfer, is scheduled to reach the planet on Monday, November 26
NASA goes with a tried and true method to get this mechanical miner on the surface of the red planet.
Engine sparks will slow down its final descent and the spacecraft will end up on its rigid legs, mimicking the landings of previous successful missions.
There the old school ends in this $ 1 billion US-European effort.
As soon as California's flight controllers find that the coast is clean at the landing site – fairly flat and without rock – the 1.8 meter InSight arm will remove the two main science experiments from the lander deck and place them directly on the surface of Mars.
No spacecraft has ever attempted this before. The first do not stop there.
An experiment will attempt to penetrate 5 meters (5 meters) to Mars, using a self-forged heat-sink nail to measure the internal temperature of the planet.
This would destroy the historic exit depth of this 8-foot (2 ½ meters) world that came from the mercenaries of Apollo about half a century ago to measure lunar heat.
Astronauts also left instruments to measure the moons. InSight carries the first earthquakes to monitor marsquakes – if any.
NASA's only geologist, known as InSight, makes his big entrance through Monday's silver star cloth. Above, the mobile tower returns to reveal the United Launch Alliance Atlas-V missile in May with NASA's InSight Spacecraft
HOW TO VISIT MARS?
Before Land InSight can start his work on Mars, he must survive a treacherous readmission and landing through the atmosphere of the planet.
After traveling more than 300 million miles in space to Mars, the InSight spacecraft has only seven minutes to land safely on the surface – often referred to as the most mischievous stage in the mission, according to the agency.
It will reach 14,000 miles per hour as it goes down through the atmosphere.
Still another experiment will calculate Mars's oscillation, providing clues about the core of the planet.
It will not look for signs of life, past or present. There are no life probes.
The spacecraft is like a self-propelled robot, said chief scientist Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"He has his own brain. He has a hand that can handle things around. He can hear with the earthquake.
"It can feel things with pressure sensors and temperature sensors. It takes its own power from the sun, "he said.
With the widening of Mars' interior, scientists could learn how our neighbor – and other rocky worlds, including the Earth and the Moon – were formed and transformed for billions of years.
Mars is much less geologically active than Earth and so its interior is closer to being in its original state – an impressive time capsule.
In the picture, a technician prepares the InSight spacecraft in 2015 to test a heat sink in his "cruise" configuration for his flight to Mars, simulating outdoor conditions at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver
InSight is expected to "revolutionize the way we think about the interior of the planet," said NASA chief scientific officer Thomas Zurbuchen.
But first, the 800kg (360kg) vehicle needs to reach safely on Mars surface.
This time, there will not be a sphere filled with the spacecraft hidden inside, as for the Spirit and Opportunity runners in 2004.
And there will not be a crane to lower the Lander as it was for the six-wheel curiosity during the dramatic "seven minutes of horror".
"This was crazy," said InSight project manager Tom Hoffman.
But he noted: "Every time you try to land on Mars, it is crazy, honestly. I do not think there is a good way to do it.
Regardless of how it is, Mars arriving and landing is difficult and indifferent.
The Earth's success rate on Mars is just 40%. This includes planetary departures dating from the early 1960s, as well as coves and landings.
The three main instruments of INSIGHT
The rotor that could reveal how Earth was formed: InSight Rover puts Mars on the landing on November 26
Three main instruments will allow the InSight rotor to "take the pulse" of the red planet:
Seismometer: The InSight landing carries a seismometer, SEIS, listening to the pulse of Mars.
The earthquake records the waves that travel through the inner structure of a planet.
The study of seismic waves tells us what waves can create.
In Mars, scientists suspect that the culprits can be marsquakes, or meteorites that hit the surface.
Thermal sensor: InSight Heat Flow Detector, HP3, overflows deeper than other rubbish, drills or probes on Mars before that.
It will investigate how much heat is still coming out of Mars.
Radio Antennas: Like Earth, Mars shakes a little as it rotates around its axis.
To study this, two radio antennas, part of the RISE instrument, accurately locate the lander's location.
This helps scientists try out the reflections of the planet and tells them how the deep inner structure affects the planet's motion around the sun.
While it has its share of flops, the US has by far the best track record. No one else has managed to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars.
Two years ago, a European passenger came so quickly, with his system coming down, that he stole an impact crater.
This time, NASA is borrowing a page from the Twin Vikings of 1976 and Phoenix of 2008, who were also stagnant and three feet away.
"But you never know what Mars will do," Hoffman said. "Just because we have done it before does not mean that we are not nervous and excited to do it again."
Wind gusts could send the spaceship into a dangerous wave during the descent, or the parachute could be confused.
A dust storm like the one surrounding Mars this past summer could hinder InSight's ability to produce solar energy. A foot can bend. The arm may be blocked.
The shorter time for flight controllers in Pasadena, California: six minutes from the moment the spacecraft hits the Mars atmosphere and the touchdown.
They will have jars with pistachios in hand – a tradition of good luck dating back to the successful Ranger 7 moon mission in 1964.
InSight will enter the Mars atmosphere at a 19,800-kilometer ultrasonic speed based on its white parachute and a series of sparks to slow down enough for a soft upright landing at Elysium Planitia on Mars, a fairly large equatorial plain.
Hoffman hopes to be like a Walmart car park in Kansas.
The flatter the better, so the Lander does not overturn, end the mission, and so the robotic arm can put the instruments of science down.
InSight – short for Inland Exploration using seismic surveying, geodesy and heat transfer – will rest near the ground, on the top deck of just a yard or a meter above the surface.
As soon as their twin circular solar panels open, the Lander will occupy the space of a large car.
If NASA gets lucky, a pair of cartoon-sized satellites coming behind InSight, since their joint rescue in May could provide up-to-date updates at Lander's descent. There is an eight minute interval in communications between the Earth and Mars.
WHAT ARE MARSKAKES AND HOW IS THE MISSION OF NASA SAMPLED?
From next year, scientists will take their first look deep down the surface of Mars.
Nasa's InSight robotic landing will study marsquakes to learn about Mars' bark, mantle, and kernel. This could help answer a big question: how are the planets born?
Seismology, the study of earthquakes, has already revealed some of the answers here on Earth, but our planet is stirring its geological record for billions of years, hiding its oldest history.
Mars, in half the earth, strikes much less – it's a fossilized planet, preserving the story of its early birth.
When rocks break or shake, they emit seismic waves bouncing across the globe. These waves, known as earthquakes, travel at different speeds depending on the geological material they travel.
Earthquakes, such as the SEIS instrument of InSight, measure the magnitude, frequency and speed of these earthquakes by providing scientists with a snapshot of the material they spend.
Mars's geological record includes lighter rocks and minerals that have risen from the interior of the planet to form the Martian cortex and heavier rocks and minerals that collapsed to form the martyrdom and core of Mars.
Referring to the stratification of these materials, scientists can explain why some rocky planets turn into "Earth" rather than "Mars" or "Aphrodite" – a factor that is essential to understanding where life can appear in the universe.
Whenever an earthquake occurs on Mars, it will give InSight a "snapshot" of the interior of the planet. The InSight team estimates that the spacecraft will see between a dozen to several hundred earthquakes during the mission.
Small meteors, passing through the fine atmosphere of Mars on a regular basis, will also serve as seismic "snapshots."
The experimental CubeSats, named WALL-E and EVE from the animated 2008 film, will attract Mars and will remain in orbit around the sun, completing the demonstration of technology.
If WALL-E and EVE are silent, new landing data will come from NASA airports on Mars, just not so fast.
The first images of the landing area must begin to flow shortly after the touchdown. It will be at least 10 weeks before the instruments of science are developed. Add even several weeks to immerse the heat explorer on Mars.
The mission is designed to last a full Mars year, which is equivalent to two Earth years.
On the day of landing so close to Thanksgiving, many of the flight controllers will eat turkey at their holiday offices.
Hoffman expects his team to wait until Monday to give all thanks.