NASA mission to the 'heart' of Mars

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A heat shield used in a NASA spacecraft created to send a six-wheeled rover vehicle to Mars in 2020 suffered an "unexpected" fracture during a structural test this month, the space agency says. InSight also measures tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars today. The Mars InSight spacecraft has been tasked to probe the mysteries surrounding the deep interiors of Mars to help scientists better understand its geology and composition. But many other details remain unknown, such as how frequently are there marsquakes, or the thickness of its crust, or how much heat is flowing.

Landing on Mars with a spacecraft that's not much bigger than a couple of office desks is "a hugely hard task, and every time we do it, we're on pins and needles", Banerdt said. That is of course if the weather permits the launch, otherwise, NASA has scheduled the mission to be carried out on 8 June.

The mission will also look into ways to support a manned-mission to the planet. One is a dome-shaped package containing seismometers. Once safely on the planet, InSight will use a slender cylindrical probe to tunnel almost 5 meters into the Martian soil.

"InSight is a truly worldwide space mission", said Tom Hoffman, project manager at JPL. A quake-measuring seismometer, meanwhile, will be removed from the lander by a mechanical arm and placed directly on the surface for better vibration monitoring.

The 1,530-pound (694-kilogram) InSight builds on the design of the Phoenix lander and, before that, the Viking landers. As a result, Mars has retained the "fingerprints" of early evolution, said Banerdt. They're all stationary three-legged landers; no roaming around.

Rockets fairings stand ready on April 6, 2018, to be used for NASA's InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander where it's now undergoing final tests for its May 5 launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

ULA and NASA are InSight to Go Deep Red.

"But we have never probed sort of beneath the outermost skin of the planet", said Banerdt. As per the report by The New York Times, its landing spot will be Elysium Planitia which is a flat space of land with no mountains or large rocks in the spacecraft's line of sight.

Remote Camera Set Up and Launch Credentialed media planning to put remote cameras on SLC-3 should meet at the Vandenberg south gate parking lot no later than 3:30 p.m. PT on Friday, May 4.

In a sense, Mars is the exoplanet next door - a nearby example of how gas, dust and heat combine and arrange themselves into a planet. "Even with all the studying that we've done, it could throw us a curveball".

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