Sunday , June 4 2023

Journey to the heart of the red planet to hear & # 39; your vital signs


"It is good to renew our capacity for wonder," said the philosopher, "travel interplanetarju given us back to childhood."

The phrase, which precedes traditional edition & # 39; Ray Bradbury & # 39; s classic
Chroniclesarcianas (Minotauro, 1976, prefaced by Borges), it is very appropriate to await the ineffable meeting will take place today in the vastness of space. At 17, local time, after traveling more than six months, the Insight NASA probe will land on the Martian surface to start the World Mission & # 39; two years to enable us to understand the processes that drafted -pjaneti rocky Earth. Solar System (itself Mars, Venus, Mercury and, also, World), 4,500 million years ago.

"It's a ship static, not Rover, like Viking – explains the engineer Argentine b & # 39; Miguel experience San Martín, after which ran four & # 39; dixxendi b & # 39; success in neighboring our kożmiku, is part of -grupp of & # 39; consultants monitored the design and testing of & # 39; this mission – by now, most of the probes and satellites focused on the surface study and discover whether or ever been life on Mars, it m & # 39; is x & # 39; shared nothing & # 39; it, but by exploring the interior: The red planet m & # 39; has a strong magnetic field like Earth, which is fundamental to protect the solar wind atmosphere. "

"Why lost?" It's a mystery, on the other hand, the Earth is like an active planet that the evidence of its formation are already contaminated, while where things are not so dynamic, we can better nanalizzawhom. It's like studying the Earth's past on Mars and understand why they differentiated ", he adds.

The planets of the Solar System formed from a disc & # 39; rock, ice and debris orbited around our domestic star. Mars is, by far, the most studied after the Earth, but astronomers know almost nothing & # 39; inside. S & # 39; now, multiple missions followed one another since, in 1971, NASA sent its first orbitatur, Mariner 9 (which rritornawna 7300 her facial image and its two waters, Phobos and Deimos) of their dust storms and sought (unsuccessfully) vital signs.

With the launch originally planned for 2016 – which had to be postponed due to leakage in & # 39; vacuum at & # 39; one of the landing module equipment, the Insight (corresponding to "Internal Exploration using & # 39; seismic investigation, Geodesy and Transportation & # 39; Heat "). ) Has three main instruments.

Seismograph will hear & # 39; & # 39 tiny vibrations; land, a & # 39; & # 39 fractions; nanometer (billion & # 39; m), because seismic waves travel around the planet and will allow the creation of & # 39; 3D image & # 39; its interior.

Drill drill will make about five meters of the Martian crust to analyze heat comes from deep and give you an idea & # 39; his activity. And another experiment will try to determine precisely how the Martian north pole is "moved" to resemble the Sun. These observations should provide detailed information on the rich core size & # 39; Iron & # 39; Mars, and will help determine whether it is liquid and which contains other elements.

"The most interesting thing about these missions is that they allow us to understand our world more", says Diego Bagus, an astronomer at the National University & # 39; La Plata and planetarium director at & # 39; such city. "This is the first time we can move the Martian ground and find out whether it has seismic movements and x & # 39; is the heat flux, although it has broken skin such as that present the World and, therefore, m & # 39; there is no movement & # 39; tectonic plates, can & # 39; a geological activity due to the impact of & # 39; meteorites, for example, study how seismic waves increase will allow we get & # 39; it is the planet's interior. "

Seven & # 39; & # 39 minutes; terror

Once arriving at the destination, the Insight will perform one of the key stages of all mission: to use its solar panels. b & # 39 Therefore, approximately one meter and 360 kilograms & # 39; weight, will reach six meters in length (equivalent to half to two thirds the length & # 39; collectively). B & # 39; these "wings" can & # 39; capturing solar rays (the b & # 39; 50% less shiny distance from Earth) to provide power to the devices.

B & # 39; difference from other probes, you will need to use articulated robotic arm to slowly put the instruments on the surface, a process that takes about three months.

But for all this to happen, you must first overcome the sequence & # 39; 'entry, descent and landing' (EDL), which makes the operation flow & # 39; Adrenaline in the control center because, although made repeatedly, is not absolutely guaranteed.

"Although the Insight is almost identical copy of the 2007 Phoenix, and we know that the design is solid, always can & # 39; an error in the workforce", arguing San Martin, veteran & # 39 ; these laws. but sometimes happens some ħaġa.L atmosphere & # 39; Mars varies with the seasons, as happens here. The pressure can & # 39; increasing or decreasing. When it is less dense, the descent becomes more complicated. And it & # 39; and there are dust storms. For this reason, a team from the Jet Propulsion (JPL Laboratory) NASA followed the approach to make forecast for the crucial moment, because in the system parameters & # 39 theory descent can be changed to make it more robust. a & # 39; Opportunity, for example, had confused atmosphere and small adjustments to nikkassimizzaw chances of & # 39; success ", he adds.

In fact, at the last moment yesterday, the Insight team decided to perform the last correction to the trajectory to move the landing point around 16km.

In addition, there are other obstacles. To the ship can & # 39; & # 39 goes by, as appropriate, shall enter in the correct angle: if it is too steep, it can & # 39; incinerated; if, by contrast, is too open, to swallow & # 39; the atmosphere and remains & # 39; f & # 39; floating in space.

"F & # 39; about six and a half minutes, the module will go from speed & # 39; nearly 20,000 kph to eight," says Bagus, "and enter a" window "of & # 39; about 10 km b & # 39; 20 on each side, a smaller area of ​​town. "

Although the atmosphere & # 39; Mars is 100 times thinner than terrestrial, at the entrance module must be protected from friction b & # 39; thermal plug prepared to withstand more than 1300 ° C. Then, it will use -paraxut her and, about 40 seconds before making contact with the ground, spread by both, extending its legs and throw light 12 to reduce the speed of descent and perch on an area known as Elysium Planitia, selected because it is dust and is relatively flat and free of rocks.

Marco Polo on Mars

Another innovation & # 39; this mission is that the probe travels accompanied by two minisatelliti (or
kubesati) The approximate size of & # 39; shoebox, Marco Polo A and B (that mission technical call Marco / Polo), will be responsible for offering services & # 39; communication with the base of the world as the module continues to perform stage after landing stage, and are proof of concept to be used in space exploration interplanetarju.

"In 1999, told us ship" see each other on the surface "and never heard it again," San Martin says, "to NASA stipulates that each landing must have telemetry to, if it fails, we can determine what did not go well and fix it in & # 39; of & # 39; after checks. Normally, we have a spacecraft that are in & # 39; of & # 39 system orbit and make us the vehicle
relay. The Insight carries these two
kubesati to separate after launch and go flying with & # 39; parallel, but from behind. During the landing, these small satellites will receive the signal and transmit it to Earth. And the good thing is that if it works, it will not have to worry that there is always satellite "live" on Mars in the correct geometry for landing. "

Contrary to what can & # 39; is intended, rate & # 39; International success decks is high, about 40%. "Sometimes it seems that these things are already & # 39; routine," Bagus concludes, "but in reality constitute an extraordinary challenge."

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