Tiny satellites to assist NASA in monitoring InSight’s landing

Tiny satellites to assist NASA in monitoring InSight’s landing

Tiny satellites to assist NASA in monitoring InSight’s landing

"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a news release.

As it once hosted an ancient lake-delta system, NASA hopes Jezero also contains a variety of minerals, which would hugely help discover more about the red planet.

The rover mission is scheduled for July 2020. Scientists say the 28-mile-wide crater's rocks and soil may contain organic molecules and other traces of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago. Some milestones will be known quickly only if the experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft are providing a reliable communications relay from InSight back to Earth.

A similar discovery would mark a new era in the exploration of Mars, which started in 1965 when the USA launched its first mission to the red planet. Though this is the case, there are still existing orbiters that can support the mission such as NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

NASA said Jezero won out because of its mix of scientific promise and accessibility.

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Farley said Jezero and other sites had been considered too risky for previous Mars missions.

It will touch down on a flat, smooth plain close to the planet's equator called the Elysium Planitia - a place where oddball alien hunters claim to have spotted a "crashed UFO" and an "extraterrestrial city". It'll also have experiments to test technologies that future astronauts will need, such as producing oxygen from Mars' thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere, and the equipment that's needed to extract and store samples for future missions to pick up. Until then, as Philippe Laudet, who leads the seismometer project on InSight, said when wrapping up his portion of the news conference, it's "Goodbye, thank you, and see you on Mars next week!" Scientists and engineers are working hard on all the hardware that the rover will use to do its job, but up until today, NASA still hadn't actually decided where on the Red Planet the rover would land.

If all goes well, MarCO may take a few seconds to receive and format the data before sending it back to Earth at the speed of light.

The event will start at 10pm with a lecture on landing on planets by Dr. Essam Heggy, Research Scientist in Earth and Planetary Sciences and a member of several Space Missions.

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