What is next for NASA’s InSight Mars Lander that has left Earth on 5th May?  

 

The InSight Mars Lander that was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on 5th May on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket began it's 301 million miles, 205 days journey to Mars. About nearly 2 hours after the liftoff, the InSight got separated from the Centaur upper stage of the Atlas rocket and began its journey to Mars. And after a few minutes later the Deep Space Network antenna of NASA received a signal from the current interplanetary InSight, which confirmed that the lander was alive. 

The InSight plunged into the atmosphere of Mars with the help of a parachute and a decent assisted by thrusters. The lander is expected to touch down on the surface of Mars at 3 p.m. EST on 26th November. The main mission of the lander is to study the planet’s interior, to detect marsquakes and monitor subsurface heat flow and to find out how the planet was formed. 

During the seven month cruise of the InSight, the subsystems and science instruments of the spacecraft will be calibrated and checked out. The spacecraft will be tracked through Deep Space Network of NASA and altitude adjustments will be performed to orient antennas, solar arrays, and execute maneuvers to ensure that the spacecraft stays in the planned trajectory. In the seven month trip, a total of 6 maneuvers for trajectory correction have been planned along with two contingency or backup opportunities if additional maneuvers are needed.  

The first 2 trajectory maneuvers of the InSight are scheduled to happen 10 days and 84 days respectively after the launch, which will be on 15th May and 28th July. If the spacecraft’s curse is not corrected after 10 days of its flight, it will miss the destination of Mars by about thousands of miles.

While checking the trajectory, the science instruments will also be checked by the flight controllers. The most important of all the science instruments on the InSight is the SEIS, seismometer, provided by French space agency, the Physical properties and Heat flow package and the self-hammering mole by the DLR, German Aerospace Center.

In the middle of the cruise, the seismometer and the Physical properties and Heat flow package will be turned on. This will be done only to check if the instruments are functioning or not.