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  • richardmitnick 1:11 pm on November 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Mars Insight   

    From Science News: “Tiny satellites will relay news of InSight’s Mars landing in minutes, not hours” 

    From Science News

    November 18, 2018
    Lisa Grossman

    Two CubeSats will send data back to Earth of the lander’s fate as they pass the Red Planet.

    1
    BOLDLY GOING Two briefcase-sized satellites, shown side by side in this artist’s rendering, will become the first tiny spacecraft to fly by Mars and act as communications relays for a lander.

    The next spacecraft set to land on Mars is bringing its own communications team. InSight, a lander scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet on November 26, is accompanied by a pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft that will send details of the landing to Earth in almost real time.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    The twin craft on this mission are CubeSats — tiny, inexpensive satellites that are easy to build and launch. Called Mars Cube One, or MarCO for short, they will fly past Mars as InSight lands, becoming the smallest spacecraft ever to be entrusted with a task as crucial as relaying landing information for a mission. Now nearing Mars, they are also already the first CubeSats to make it so far from Earth. If all goes well with InSight’s landing, future Mars missions could also be equipped with their own single-use comms team.

    “A future where landers and rovers brought their own communications systems for landing, that would be fantastic,” says engineer Joel Krajewski of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and MarCO’s program manager.

    InSight — short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — will carry the first seismometer to Mars (SN: 5/26/18, p. 13). After touching down in a wide, flat plain called Elysium Planitia near Mars’ equator, the lander will sit perfectly still to listen to seismic waves and measure how heat flows through the Red Planet’s interior. The results will help scientists understand how Mars, and perhaps other rocky planets like Earth, formed around 4.5 billion years ago.

    ______________________________________________
    Marks the spot

    InSight will land in the flat, smooth plains of Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator. The spot provides relative calm, geologically speaking, and ample sunlight for powering the lander. The landing sites of previous Mars surface missions are shown as well.

    3

    ______________________________________________

    It will be only 6½ minutes between when InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, at a speed of nearly 1,000 meters per second, to the moment its legs touch the ground. The spacecraft will use a parachute and rockets aimed at the ground to slow to about 2.4 meters per second as it lands. Light-speed signals from the CubeSats or Insight itself will then take about eight minutes to travel between Earth and Mars, so by the time NASA engineers hear that InSight has entered Mars’ atmosphere, the spacecraft will be on the ground.

    “Which is terrifying,” says engineer Farah Alibay, also of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Whether it landed softly or pretty hard, we won’t know. But we’ll know when you get that first bit of data, InSight’s already landed.”

    ______________________________________________
    We’re listening

    The MarCO CubeSats will watch InSight’s descent to the Martian surface (red line) and send details of the landing back to Earth, before continuing past the planet.

    4
    ______________________________________________

    For most previous Mars landings, one of the large orbiters currently circling the Red Planet had to pause its data-taking to watch the event and send details to Earth. The orbiter that will be in the best position to watch InSight will be NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    NASA/Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

    While that spacecraft will observe the landing, it won’t be able to relay any details to Earth for at least three hours as its orbit takes the craft behind Mars from Earth’s point of view, blocking communications.

    “Three to four hours is not long for most people, but it’s pretty long for us,” Alibay says. “Landing is the scariest part of your mission.” Waiting to hear about the spacecraft’s landing is like waiting for news about a loved one’s health, she says.

    To avoid that waiting, the team sent the twin CubeSats. The spacecraft launched with InSight, but have been navigating through deep space on their own since May. The MarCO craft can change their trajectories by expelling compressed cold gas, similar to the way a fire extinguisher works — which earned them the nicknames Wall-E and Eve among the team, after the space-flying Disney robot characters. “We’ve demonstrated that a CubeSat can leave Earth orbit, survive the harsh environment of space and direct itself towards Mars,” Alibay says.

    About five minutes before InSight hits the top of the Martian atmosphere, the two MarCO craft will position themselves to track the lander all the way to the ground, and send details back to Earth immediately. Each operates independently, backing each other up.

    If all goes well, MarCO could set a precedent for future Mars missions. Existing Mars orbiters will be able to support two Mars missions launching in 2020 — NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and the ExoMars rover run by the European Space Agency and Russia’s space agency. But after that, the future is dim.

    NASA Mars Rover 2020 NASA

    ESA Exomars 2020

    “Right now, there’s not an active plan for an orbiter beyond that time frame,” Krajewski says. Plus, existing orbiters have to burn fuel to get into the right position to watch other spacecraft land, which shortens the orbiters’ lives. Sending future spacecraft with their own CubeSat comms team could help scientists monitor landings without compromising the big orbiters’ science missions.

    After InSight lands, MarCO’s job will be done. The tiny craft don’t have enough fuel or the right equipment to enter a long-term orbit around Mars. Instead, MarCO will “wave goodbye and continue along,” Krajewski says.

    You can watch InSight’s landing online on NASA TV.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:07 am on August 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Dr Farah Alibay, NASA Mars Insight, , When flying to Mars is your day job,   

    From BBC Presented by via Science Node: Women in STEM- “When flying to Mars is your day job” Dr Farah Alibay 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    BBC
    BBC

    17 August 2018
    Mary Halton

    1
    “As a kid… I never really thought there was a job where you worked on spacecraft.” Farah Alibay

    Sending missions to Mars for a living sounds like a dream job. But not every day can be launch day – so what do Nasa’s spacecraft engineers get up to the rest of the time?

    Dr Farah Alibay is based at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and works on the InSight mission – which lifted off to Mars in May 2018.

    NASA/Mars Insight Lander

    It aims to land on the planet in November and have a look inside – taking its internal temperature and listening for “Marsquakes” to learn more about how our nearest neighbour formed.

    Now halfway to the Red Planet and running to a Mars day rather than an Earth one, InSight is looked after by a dedicated team who regularly check in with the spacecraft on its long journey, including Dr Alibay.

    She shared a day at her job with the BBC.

    2
    “My official title is Payload Systems Engineer.” Farah Alibay/JPL/NASA

    What’s a working day like for you?

    So it’s sort of weird that we’re on our way to Mars… and it’s really boring! But really that’s the way you want it to be. Everything’s going fine, so we’ll just keep going!

    Before we launched, my job was to make sure that all the instruments were integrated properly on the spacecraft, and that they were tested properly.

    Right now while we’re sort of in this limbo time where we’re waiting, my job is to help the teams prepare for operations.

    3
    “I love that a lot of my work is collaborative, so I spend a lot of time working with other people.” Farah Alibay/JPL/NASA

    It’s kind of an engineer’s job to worry. Because it’s always the things you never imagined would happen that happen.

    We’re halfway to Mars right now, literally this week is the halfway point, and I’ve been getting Mars landing nightmares.

    Less than half the missions that have tried landing on Mars have succeeded. So it’s a little scary when you spend that much time on a spacecraft and it’s all going to come down to that one day – Monday 16 November. We’ll see what happens!

    The way that we operate the spacecraft is that we basically write commands. Each one is a piece of code that we send up to the spacecraft to tell it what to do when it’s on the ground.

    When the spacecraft is sleeping at night, we work. So we get all the data down, look at it and tell the spacecraft: “Hey InSight, tomorrow these are the tasks I want you to do!”

    4

    And then we uplink it, right before it wakes up in the morning. Then we go to bed and the spacecraft does its work.

    5
    Being ‘on console’ means working from mission control, home to the Deep Space Network which communicates with Nasa’s distant missions. Farah Alibay/JPL/NASA

    But because the Mars day shifts every day, we also have to shift our schedule by an hour every day. So the first day we’ll start at 6am, and then [the next] will be 7am… 8am… 9am… and then we take a day off.

    About once a week we’ve been turning on a different instrument and doing a checkout. So just making sure that everything was ok from launch, that the instrument is still behaving properly.

    One of those tests is happening today. We do that from console because the spacecraft is being operated at Lockheed Martin in Denver, and the instrument teams are looking at that data from Europe, so we use a system that allows us all to talk to each other.

    What’s your favourite aspect of your job?

    No matter what I do on a given day, no one’s really done it before. And I think that’s what’s exciting. We don’t just do incremental change, we do brand new things.

    6
    Landing sites are carefully chosen, as many of the spacecraft that have tried to land on Mars have met with an unpleasant end. Farah Alibay/JPL/NASA

    It helps put things in perspective, because my job does involve spending days looking at spreadsheets sometimes, or building PowerPoint slides, or answering emails. I definitely do a lot of that, so it’s just as boring sometimes as other jobs.

    But putting it into perspective… even on a boring day my spacecraft is still on its way to Mars!

    7
    Team X brainstorm: “You can go to them and say I have this wild idea, and they make you make this wild idea into a mission concept.” Farah Alibay/JPL/NASA

    How did you become a Nasa engineer?

    So my path is a little strange. I actually grew up in England… I grew up in Manchester and went to university at Cambridge and then ended up at MIT. When I was at MIT I interned at JPL.

    One of the things I try to do is mentor other women interns, because I had really great mentors when I was an intern, and that’s how I got my job.

    8
    Dr Alibay with JPL intern Taleen Sarkissian.Farah Alibay/JPL/NASA

    What’s next, after Mars?

    I will be part of the InSight team until the end of the instrument deployment, so probably until February 2019.

    My dream actually… we don’t have a mission on that yet, but my favourite moon is Saturn’s Enceladus.

    The geysers at the south pole of Enceladus are incredible, and I’ve worked on mission concepts before that we’ve proposed to Nasa to fly through those plumes. One day I want there to be a mission to do that.

    We’re focused on finding life in the Solar System right now, and I think a lot of us believe that in our lifetime… if there’s life in the Solar System we’re probably going find it.

    So I want to be part of the team that finds it.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on March 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Mars Insight   

    From JPL-Caltech: “360 Video: Tour a Mars Robot Test Lab” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    March 8, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Engineers use a replica of NASA’s InSight lander, which will launch to Mars later this year, at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    NASA’s InSight lander looks a bit like an oversized crane game: when it lands on Mars this November, its robotic arm will be used to grasp and move objects on another planet for the first time.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    And like any crane game, practice makes it easier to capture the prize.

    Engineers and scientists have a replica of InSight at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They use this testbed to simulate all the functions of the spacecraft, preparing for any scenario it might meet once it touches down on the Red Planet.

    InSight is unique in that it’s a lander rather than a rover; once it touches down, it can’t reposition itself. Its job is to stay very still and collect high-precision data. JPL’s testbed for the lander sits on piles of crushed garnet in a facility called the In-Situ Instrument Lab. This garnet simulates a mix of sand and gravel found on the Martian surface but has the benefit of being dust-free. The testbed’s legs are raised or lowered to test operations in an uneven landing area with up to 15 degrees of tilt.

    Engineers also pile garnet at different tilts in the testbed’s “workspace” — the area in front of the lander where it practices setting down three science tools: an ultra-sensitive seismometer; a shield that isolates the seismometer from wind and temperature swings; and a heat-flow probe. These three objects are formally called the Science Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS); the Wind and Thermal Shield (WTS); and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3).

    2
    Insight’s tools

    All this practice ensures InSight can set these objects down safely no matter what surprises its landing site has in store.

    One challenge lies in the tethers that supply power to each science instrument, said Marleen Sundgaard of JPL, InSight’s testbed lead. Each tether unspools as the arm lifts an instrument off the lander.

    “We have multiple places where we could put each instrument down,” Sundgaard said. “There are scenarios where the tethers would cross each other, so we need to make sure they don’t snag.”

    Besides robotic operations, the testbed has to recreate Martian light. Special lights are also used to calibrate InSight’s cameras to the brightness and color of Martian sunlight.

    All this practice should pay off with some incredible new science. InSight will be the first mission dedicated to exploring the deep interior of Mars, including its core and mantle. The data it collects could help scientists understand how all rocky planets — including Mars and Earth — first formed.

    InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. The launch window opens on May 5.

    For more information about InSight, go to:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 11:37 am on August 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Mars Insight   

    From JPL: “NASA’s Next Mars Mission to Investigate Interior of Red Planet” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    August 28, 2017

    Guy Webster
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6278
    guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    Danielle Hauf
    Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Denver
    303-932-4360
    danielle.m.hauf@lmco.com

    Shannon Ridinger
    Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
    256-544-3774
    shannon.j.ridinger@nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Laurie Cantillo
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1077
    laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov

    1
    NASA has set a new launch opportunity, beginning May 5, 2018, for the InSight mission to Mars. InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. The findings will advance understanding of how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved. This artist’s concept depicts the InSight lander on Mars after the lander’s robotic arm has deployed a seismometer and a heat probe directly onto the ground.

    2
    This view looks upward toward the InSight Mars lander suspended upside down. It shows the top of the lander’s science deck with the mission’s two main science instruments — the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3) — plus the robotic arm and other subsystems installed. The photo was taken Aug. 9, 2017, in a Lockheed Martin clean room facility in Littleton, Colorado.

    Preparation of NASA’s next spacecraft to Mars, InSight, has ramped up this summer, on course for launch next May from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California — the first interplanetary launch in history from America’s West Coast.

    Lockheed Martin Space Systems is assembling and testing the InSight spacecraft in a clean room facility near Denver. “Our team resumed system-level integration and test activities last month,” said Stu Spath, spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin. “The lander is completed and instruments have been integrated onto it so that we can complete the final spacecraft testing including acoustics, instrument deployments and thermal balance tests.”

    InSight is the first mission to focus on examining the deep interior of Mars. Information gathered will boost understanding of how all rocky planets formed, including Earth.

    “Because the interior of Mars has churned much less than Earth’s in the past three billion years, Mars likely preserves evidence about rocky planets’ infancy better than our home planet does,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. He leads the international team that proposed the mission and won NASA selection in a competition with 27 other proposals for missions throughout the solar system. The long form of InSight’s name is Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

    Whichever day the mission launches during a five-week period beginning May 5, 2018, navigators have charted the flight to reach Mars the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2018.

    The mission will place a stationary lander near Mars’ equator. With two solar panels that unfold like paper fans, the lander spans about 20 feet (6 meters). Within weeks after the landing — always a dramatic challenge on Mars — InSight will use a robotic arm to place its two main instruments directly and permanently onto the Martian ground, an unprecedented set of activities on Mars. These two instruments are:

    — A seismometer, supplied by France’s space agency, CNES, with collaboration from the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. Shielded from wind and with sensitivity fine enough to detect ground movements half the diameter of a hydrogen atom, it will record seismic waves from “marsquakes” or meteor impacts that reveal information about the planet’s interior layers.

    — A heat probe, designed to hammer itself to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) or more and measure the amount of energy coming from the planet’s deep interior. The heat probe is supplied by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, with the self-hammering mechanism from Poland.

    A third experiment will use radio transmissions between Mars and Earth to assess perturbations in how Mars rotates on its axis, which are clues about the size of the planet’s core.

    The spacecraft’s science payload also is on track for next year’s launch. The mission’s launch was originally planned for March 2016, but was called off due to a leak into a metal container designed to maintain near-vacuum conditions around the seismometer’s main sensors. A redesigned vacuum vessel for the instrument has been built and tested, then combined with the instrument’s other components and tested again. The full seismometer instrument was delivered to the Lockheed Martin spacecraft assembly facility in Colorado in July and has been installed on the lander.

    “We have fixed the problem we had two years ago, and we are eagerly preparing for launch,” said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman, of JPL.

    The best planetary geometry for launches to Mars occurs during opportunities about 26 months apart and lasting only a few weeks.

    Together with two active NASA Mars rovers, three NASA Mars orbiters and a Mars rover being built for launch in 2020, InSight is part of a legacy of robotic exploration that is helping to lay the groundwork for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

    More information about InSight is online at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/insight

    https://insight.jpl.nasa.gov/

    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 10:58 am on September 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA Mars Insight   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA Approves 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    September 2, 2016
    Guy Webster
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6278
    guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Laurie Cantillo
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1077
    laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov

    NASA Mars Insight Lander
    NASA Mars Insight Lander. This artist’s concept from August 2015 depicts NASA’s InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. This illustration updates the correct placement and look of Insight’s main instruments.

    NASA is moving forward with a spring 2018 launch of its InSight mission to study the deep interior of Mars, following final approval this week by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

    The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission was originally scheduled to launch in March of this year, but NASA suspended launch preparations in December due to a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

    The new launch period for the mission begins May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018. The next launch opportunity is driven by orbital dynamics, so 2018 is the soonest the lander can be on its way.

    “Our robotic scientific explorers such as InSight are paving the way toward an ambitious journey to send humans to the Red Planet,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in Washington. “It’s gratifying that we are moving forward with this important mission to help us better understand the origins of Mars and all the rocky planets, including Earth.”

    The SEIS instrument — designed to measure ground movements as small as half the radius of a hydrogen atom — requires a perfect vacuum seal around its three main sensors in order to withstand harsh conditions on the Red Planet. Under what’s known as the mission “replan,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will be responsible for redesigning, developing and qualifying the instrument’s evacuated container and the electrical feedthroughs that failed previously. France’s space agency, the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), will focus on developing and delivering the key sensors for SEIS, integration of the sensors into the container, and the final integration of the instrument onto the spacecraft.

    The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is contributing the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) to InSight’s science payload.

    NASA’s budget for InSight was $675 million. The instrument redesign and two-year delay add $153.8 million. The additional cost will not delay or cancel any current missions, though there may be fewer opportunities for new missions in future years, from fiscal years 2017-2020.

    InSight’s primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets formed and evolved. Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said, “We’ve concluded that a replanned InSight mission for launch in 2018 is the best approach to fulfill these long-sought, high-priority science objectives.”

    CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall added, “This confirmation of the launch plan for InSight is excellent news and an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about the internal structure of the Red Planet, which is currently of major interest to the international science community.”

    The InSight Project is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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