Travel to the red planet's heart to listen to vital signs



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"It's good to renew our ability to wonder," the philosopher said, "The Interplanetary trip has given us back to childhood."

A phrase that precedes the classic Ray Bradbury classic
chronic marciana (Minotauro, 1976, by Borges), it is highly appropriate to expect the unmatched encounters of the present space with a vast immeasurable encounter. At 17 o'clock local time after more than six months, NASA's Insight Probe lands on the Mars surface to send a two-year Earth so we can understand the processes that shape the earth's cliffs. The Solar System (Mars itself, Venus, Mercury and also Earth), 4500 million years ago.

"It's a static ship, not a Rover, like Viking," says an experienced Argentine engineer, Miguel San Martín, who guided four successful landings in our cosmic neighborhood, and is part of a group of advisors who oversaw planning and testing – So far most of the probes and satellites focusing on surface testing and finding whether or not Mars has or has ever lived has nothing to do with it but looking at the inner surface: The red planet does not have a strong magnetic field like the globe, which is essential to protect the solar wind's atmosphere. "

"Why did you lose it?" It is a mystery, on the other hand, Earth is so active in the planet that evidence of its formation is already contaminated, whereas where things are not so dynamic, we can analyze them better. It's like studying the Earth's past on Mars and understanding why they're differentiated, "he adds.

The solar cell planets were formed from a plate of rock, ice and debris circling around our domestic stars. Mars is by far the most researched after the globe, but astronomers are virtually unaware of any interior design. So far, there are several different tasks that have followed each other since, in 1971, NASA sent its first orbiter, Mariner 9 (who returned to us 7300 images of its surface and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos) with their dust storms and searching (without success) signs of life.

Originally planned for 2016, which should have been delayed due to vacuum flow in a single unit, Insight (equivalent to "Internal research on seismic studies, geodesy and heat transport") has three main tools.

Seismographs hear small oscillations of the earth, nanometer shares (billions of feet), as seismic waves pass through the planet and allow the 3D image to be created indoors.

Drill a drill about five meters from Mars's hull to analyze the heat coming from the depths and give the idea of ​​its operation. And another experiment attempts to determine very precisely how much Mars's north pole has been "displaced" when it circulates the sun. These observations provide detailed information about the size of the core containing Mars and help determine whether it is liquid and what other elements contain.

"The most interesting of these tasks is that they allow us to understand our world," says the astronomer Diego Bagu of La Platana and Planetaario's leader in this city. "This is the first time we are able to drill the Earth's Mars and find out whether it is seismic and what is the heat stream, although it does not have a broken bark, as the Earth has presented, and therefore there is no tectonic disc, geological activity can be affected. For example, exploring meteorites how seismic waves are progressing, allow us to know what the planet's interior is. "

Seven minutes of horror

When arriving at the destination, Insight implements one of the most important stages of the entire mission: place it on its solar panels. Thus, at a height of about one meter and a weight of 360 kilograms it reaches six meters (equivalent to one-third of the collective length). With these "blades" you can capture the sun's rays (which at that distance shine 50% less than on Earth) to give energy to the devices.

Unlike other probes, you need to use a pivoted robotic map to place the drives slowly on a surface that lasts about three months.

But in order for all this to happen, it must first win the "entry, landing and landing order" (EDL) that makes the adrenaline flow in the control center because, although it happened repeatedly, it is not fully guaranteed.

"While Insight is a nearly identical copy of Phoenix in 2007, and we know the model is solid, an employee can always be a mistake," says San Martin, a veteran of these laws. but sometimes something happens to us. The atmosphere of Mars varies according to the season, as it does here. Pressure can rise or fall. When it is less dense, landing becomes more complicated. And it can also be dust storms. For this reason, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team followed the approach that sought to make the forecast a crucial moment because in theory the parameters of the landing system can be changed to make it more durable. for example, we had a disrupted atmosphere and made little changes to maximize the potential for success, "he adds.

In fact, during the last day of the last day, the Insight team decided to make the last correction to the waypoint to move the point of departure for about 16 km.

There are also other obstacles. In order for the vessel to fall properly, it will come to the right angle: if it is too steep, it can be burned; if, on the contrary, it is too open, it knocks the atmosphere and stays floating in space.

"After about half a minute and a half module leaves almost 20 000 km / h speed of eight," says Bagu. "He has to leave a" ten-mile "window that is smaller than a city."

Although Mars's atmosphere is 100 times thinner than ground, at the entrance, the module must be protected from friction with a heat conduit prepared to withstand over 1300 ° C. Then it uses its parachute and about 40 seconds before touching the ground, it is detached from both, extending its legs and lightweight 12- Propulsion devices reduce the rate of sedimentation and perforation in the area known as Elysium Planitia, selected because it is dusty and even and has relatively free rocks.

Marco Polo Marsella

Another innovation in this task is that the probe runs through two mini-satellites (or
Cubesat) which is responsible for providing broadcasting on the ground when the module continues to perform the performance of the shoe box, Marco-A and Marco-B (which is referred to by the technicians in the transmission technology called Marco / Polo) after the landing stage and are evidence of the concept intended use Interplanetary space exploration.

"In 1999, the ship told us," Chau, we see each other on the surface "and we never heard it again, San Martin says, so NASA ordered every last name to have telemetry, so if it fails, we can figure out what it did not go right and fix it We usually have spaceships that are on the orbit and they make us
relay. Insight handles these two
Cubesat which are separated after starting and flying in parallel but behind. During the landing, these small satellites receive the signal and deliver it to Earth. And the good thing is that if it works, we do not have to worry that Mars always has a satellite with "landing on the right geometry". "

Contrary to what can be thought of, the international success rate for decks is not high, about 40 percent. "Sometimes it seems that these things are already routine," Bagu states, "but in reality they are an exceptional challenge."

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