CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA.-MARS is about to get his first American visitor for years: a triple, one armed geologist to kick deep and listen to the earthquake.
NASA InSight makes its big entrance in the pink-colored Martian sky on Monday after a six-month trip of 480 million kilometers. It will be the first US spacecraft to land since 2012 in Curiosity rover and the first is dedicated to underground exploration.
NASA is trying to try the right way to get this mechanical rock to the surface of the red planet. Burning the engine will slow down its final descent and the spacecraft will sail down on its rigid leg, mimicking the landing of previously successful missions.
This is where the old school ends up with $ 1 billion in this American effort.
As soon as California's pilot airplanes find that the coast is clear on the landing site – fairly flat and without stones – the 1.8 meter InSight arm removes two major scientific experiments from the deck of the landing surface and places them directly on the surface of Mars.
No spacecraft has ever tried it.
The first does not stop there.
One experiment attempts to penetrate Mars for 5 meters using a self-acting hammer with temperature sensors that measure the planet's internal temperature. That would mean breaking a depth record of 8.5 meters, which Apollo moonworms poured almost half a century ago to measure the monthly heat.
Astronauts have also left instruments for measuring sea delights. InSight carries the first seismometers for tracking marsquakes – if they exist. Another experiment will count on the wave of Mars and give a trace of the planet's core.
He will not seek signs of life, past or present. There are no life detectors on board.
Spacecraft is a self-contained robot, said lead scientist Bruce Banerdt of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"He has his own brain, he has a hand that can manipulate things, he can listen to his seismometer, he feels it with pressure sensors and temperature sensors, pulls his own power out of the sun," he said.
By spreading Mars' inner surfaces, scientists could learn how our neighbor – and other rock worlds, including the Earth and the Moon – were shaping and transforming for billions of years. Mars is much less geologically active than Earth, so its interior is closer to being in its original condition – a tantalizing time capsule.
InSight stands for "a revolution in the way we think about the interior of the planet," said NASA chief scientific officer Thomas Zurbuchen.
However, it is first necessary to safely reach a surface of 800 kilograms (360 kilograms) on the surface of Mars. This time, the ball will not jump down with a spacecraft tucked in, as it was for the Spirit and Opportunity Company in 2004. And there will not be a crane to reduce the lander as there was for six-star curiosity during the dramatic "seven minutes of terror".
"It was crazy," said Tom Hoffman, Project Manager at InSight. But he remarked, "Whenever you try to land on Mars, it's crazy, honest, I think it's not a reasonable way to do it."
Regardless of what's going on, get to Mars and land there is tough – and insistent.
Earth's success rate on Mars is only 40 percent. This includes planetary flights from the early 1960s, as well as orbits and landings.
While it has a share in the flop, the US has by far the best results. No one else was able to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars. Two years ago, the European runway had come so quickly, with a falling system that kicked the crater in a crash.
This time NASA borrows a site from two-member Vikings from 1976 and Phoenix in 2008, which were also stationary and triple.
"But you never know what Mars is going to do," Hoffman said. "Just because we did it before does not mean we're not nervous and excited to do it again."
Wind gusts could send a space ship into a dangerous bubble on the descent, or the parachute could be tangled. A dust storm, like the one that surrounded Mars in the summer, could limit InSight's ability to generate solar energy. The leg could be triggered. The shoulder could jam.
The Strongest Time for Control Systems in Pasadena, Calif.: Six minutes after the spacecraft hit Mars atmosphere and landing. They will have a peanut kernel at hand – a good tradition dating back to the successful Ranger 7 mission in 1964.
InSight enters the Mars atmosphere at 19,800 km / h, relying on a white nylon parachute and a number of engine trips, which will slow down enough to get back enough on the Elysium Planitia bridges, a large equatorial plane.
Hoffman hopes it's "like Walmart Park in Kansas."
The better, the better is that the landing machine does not cross and end the mission, so the robotic arm can set the scientific instruments down.
InSight – an abbreviation for interior exploration through seismic surveying, geodesy and heat transport – will rest near the ground, its upper deck barely a yard or a meter above the surface. After opening two circular solar panels, the landing space will occupy large car space.
If NASA is lucky, a pair of satellites with a large number of briefcases that have been in InSight since their joint floral liftoff could provide close updates during the country's crash. The communication between Earth and Mars is eight minutes late.
Experimental CubeSats, called WALL-E and EVE from Animated Film 2008, will come close to Mars and will remain in orbit around the Sun and their technological demonstration is complete.
If WALL-E and EVE are mute, landing messages come from NASA planets on Mars, not so fast.
The first imagery of the landing site should start running shortly after landing. It will be at least 10 weeks prior to the deployment of scientific tools. Add a few more weeks before the warm probe plunges into Mars.
The mission is designed to last one full Martian year, equivalent to two years Earth.
With the landing bottom that is so close to Thanksgiving, many of the flight regulators will eat turkeys on their holiday tables.
Hoffman expects his team to wait until Monday to give him full and proper thanks.