NASA picks ancient river delta for Mars rover landing

NASA In Sight Landing

NASA's InSight spacecraft is on track for a soft touchdown on the surface of the Red Planet on November 26, scientists monitoring the health and trajectory of the lander have said. Like Curiosity, Mars 2020 would be lowered to the surface from a rocket-powered "Sky Crane" platform, which NASA says is the safest way to land a 1-ton payload. It will land in Elysium Planitia, which is near the equator of Mars.

Nasa aimed for as flat an area as possible so the lander does not tip over and thereby kill the mission, and so the robotic arm can set the science instruments down.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CA - MAY 03: The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket is seen with NASA's InSight spacecraft onboard, Thursday, May 3, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It's taken just over six months to reach Mars. While this is not the first time a USA -built spacecraft will visit Mars, the InSight would be the first to conduct underground exploration. "We may learn more about what kinds of planets can harbour life. This is important for understanding the similarities and differences between Earth, Mars, and other rocky planets", Dr. Sean McMahon, a geobiologist from the University of Edinburg, was quoted as saying.

InSight stands to "revolutionise the way we think about the inside of the planet", said Nasa's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen.

Mars InSight
NASA Picks Landing Spot for 2020 Mars Rover

Unlike other ventures, the lander will remain in a fixed position. "On the Ground they would provide a capacity of 1800 watts, however, in conditions of Mars, they will provide power in 600 watts, and in the case of high dust content in the atmosphere to 300 watts". Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

NASA expects the heat shield to remain hot for around 3 minutes until the parachute deploys.

MarCO's job will be over after the InSight has already landed. At a distance of 12 km from the surface will develop a parachute with a diameter of 39 ft (11,88 m).

"The delta is a good place for evidence of life to be deposited and then preserved for the billions of years that have elapsed since this lake was present", Mars 2020 project scientist Ken Farley explained.

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