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For the first time since launching the Curiosity rover in 2011, NASA is sending a spacecraft to the surface of Mars. Exciting! Surface missions are sexy missions: Everyone loves roving robots and panoramic imagery of other worlds. But the agency's latest interplanetary emissary won't be doing any traveling (it's a lander, not a rover). And while it might snap some pictures of dreamy Martian vistas, it's not the surface that it's targeting.
InSight—short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport—will be the first mission to peer deep into Mars' interior, a sweeping geophysical investigation that will help scientists answer questions about the formation, evolution, and composition of the red planet and other rocky bodies in our solar system.
Mission - Time - Month - Window - Opening
The mission is scheduled to launch some time this month, with a window opening May 5. When the lander arrives at Mars on November 26 of this year, it will land a few degrees north of the equator in a broad, low-lying plain dubbed Elysium Planitia. The locale will afford InSight—a solar-powered, burrowing spacecraft—two major perks: maximum sun exposure and smooth, penetrable terrain. It is here that InSight will unfan its twin solar arrays, deploy its hardware, and settle in for two years of work.
Using a five-fingered grapple at the end of a 2.4-meter robotic arm, the lander will grab its research instruments from its deck (a horizontal surface affixed to the spacecraft itself), lift them into the air, and carefully place them onto the planet's surface. A camera attached to the arm and a second one closer to the ground will help InSight engineers scope out the lander's immediate surroundings and plan how to deploy its equipment.
Claw - Game - Arcades - Payload - Systems
"Have you ever played the claw game at arcades?” asks payload systems engineer Farah Alibay. “That's essentially what we're doing, millions of miles away."...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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