Saturday , April 17 2021

The view from the control room: As InSight landed on Mars



morning hours prior to the InSight NASA space vehicle entered the atmosphere of Mars, about 30 employees of Lockheed Martin assembled in the company's InSight mission support area in Denver. They all wore the same red button down shirt, decorated with plaster mission. Someone glued red plastic over some of the fluorescent lamps give the room the Martian atmosphere. In the final hours ticked before InSight broke the atmosphere of Mars and toward the surface, there was not much to do but wait and worry.

Engineers sent a sequence of spacecraft landing teams of days ago, where they are now sitting on the board, like little bombs waiting for the right time to fulfill themselves. "We can not joystick it," says Tim the Linn, leading to entry, descent and landing of the spacecraft. The time it takes to travel from the Earth connection on the boat longer than is required for the descent vehicle landing on the surface of Mars, so everything is programmed.

Over in California, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists and engineers handled the mission control and movement, while the Lockheed-led operation of spacecraft. This includes the pre-sent the command to set the InSight lander NASA safely down on Mars. And today is their big day: Six months after the lander left Earth, he arrives at the Red Planet, we hope, with soft cotton and did not break. The team has done a great job to ensure that the latter does not happen, but, you know, it's Mars. This is far and surprisingly, only about 40 percent of the spacecraft, which is intended to reach Mars done so successfully.

Linn behind the head, on the big screen, the graph shows, the Doppler data from the InSight, red and blue squiggles, which point to its speed. "At the moment, we can not have any hiccups," he says, looking around the room in clusters of booths, where team members sat in silence in front of their computers. Rounded top labels, each printed with a picture of Mars as a backdrop, to announce various areas premises, which will be devoted to land-based data protection system or fault or software flights. Many people are now picking screens actually helped build a spaceship. Sarah Brandt, engineer-energy systems, within three months, who live on the Vandenberg Air Force to help get the spacecraft ready for launch. Today, she says, feels like Christmas morning. Presents, that: But the agonizing waiting in advance.

Most of the space flight forward. Nearly 800-pound ship launched in May, and was streaking to Mars so far. Insight-a backronym for "MVDA exploration using seismic studies, surveying and heat Transport" -will be a scientist to understand how rocky planets form here in the solar system, as well as access to the rest of the universe.

The first one hundred million years of the planet's determine many of their more adult features: the fact that they are made, their atmospheres as if the magnetic field wraps around them. Mars contained residues of these early processes in such a way that the Earth, with its regular geological perfectionism, does not matter.

InSight seeks to understand them. It has a tool that will measure seismic activity (and pick up the echoes of meteorites), a kind of thermometer, which adheres itself 16 feet beneath the Martian surface, and the device, which will summarize the rotation of the Red Planet. But before these tools can do their work, they had to make the long trip to Mars, the hard way, no matter how many times people have sent spacecraft out there.

InSight was pretty safe in the long emptiness of space, but it was the last-miles problem: how to get through the atmosphere to alight safely on the ground. Securing the final phase of its transit to a large extent the work Lockheed engineers who led the development and production of INSIGHT, including equipment, which slows it down from 12,300 miles per hour when it gets into the atmosphere, to scratch the surface.

At the entry point, the heat INSIGHT facing forward, to protect their sensitive parts as the heat builds up to 2700 degrees Fahrenheit. The friction from this leg of the trip InSight slows down to less than 1,000 miles per hour. Then the parachute unfolds, and heat disappear. INSIGHT Three legs are put forward as the skull and limbs radar system scans the surface. The back shell is connected to the parachute drops and InSight starts its engines.

A lot of sweat.

Just kidding! At any stage in this process, the mission can go sideways, and there is nothing anyone in any Lockheed or JPL can do. By that time, the engineers get the word out that InSight entered the atmosphere of Mars, he has landed, or has failed.

Since the time of entry I came a little blue dot representing the InSight is cut closer to the pictorial to Mars Lockheed visible on the screen. Another display lists the final stages of the journey and methodically struck them. People clustered in front of screens, muttering.

A voice from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory came through the dynamics in Denver. According to the audio, the two small moons, who traveled with the InSight, collectively referred to as Mark mission seemed to be working. Their job was to pick pings with InSight and send its contents back to Earth. A radio telescope on Earth is also collected several transmissions from the descent module.

Soon after the spacecraft has been entry into the atmosphere. «Blackout possible during peak heating," warns the voice. Illustrated version of the InSight, like a hefty coffee filter, an arc across the screen titled "Modeling of target performance." The Martian horizon bent under him.

Voice read speed of penetration into the essence: 2000 meters per second. 1000 meters per second. The parachute will deploy in the near future, she says. But the only way to know when it happened to watch for a sudden change in speed, markedly different Doppler shift signal.

Therefore, when a voice says: "A sudden change in Doppler,» the whole audience claps for a second, and then subsides.

"Radar begins to search the land … 30 meters … 20 meters … 17 meters … standing behind a touchdown."

And then comes: Landing.

The maroon shirts engineers began to cry again, and they soon became more and more hoarse. Handshakes gave way to victory weapon-V. Woo turned into a full-throated cries.

A voice rising above the crash, said: "It never gets easier."

For more information about the journey and the physical state of INSIGHT, it is expected to arrive in the near future with the spacecraft in orbit of Mars on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey. Odyssey has to make sure, the InSight successfully deployed its solar panels, which it will have to keep him alive, now that he landed safely. These data arrives at Lockheed just one floor below the control room InSight, in another area called Deep Space Mission Operations.

Wall-sized planet Murals decorate the downstairs room where engineers also control the spacecraft as the Spitzer Space Telescope and the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid sample reverse mission, which will arrive at your destination in the next month, in addition to these two orbiting Mars vehicles. "How often do we get a landing on Mars," says Beth Buck, the mission program manager operations, which at least has a chance of landing on Mars is way more common than most people realize.

After InSight lands safely, Buck leaves the room and walks past a wall covered with InSight arts and facts. One item in the gallery today listed: November 26, 2018. Planting Day. Before, he held a symbolic meaning, as a kind of a motivational poster, perhaps. Now it has acquired a new identity as a cold, hard fact.


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