[meteorite-list] NASA Begins Testing Mars Lander for Next Mission to Red Planet (InSight)
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 27 May 2015 17:03:01 -0700 (PDT)
NASA Begins Testing Mars Lander for Next Mission to Red Planet
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
May 27, 2015
Testing is underway on NASA's next mission on the journey to Mars, a stationary
lander scheduled to launch in March 2016.
The lander is called InSight, an abbreviation for Interior Exploration
using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It is about
the size of a car and will be the first mission devoted to understanding
the interior structure of the Red Planet. Examining the planet's deep
interior could reveal clues about how all rocky planets, including Earth,
formed and evolved.
The current testing will help ensure InSight can operate in and survive
deep space travel and the harsh conditions of the Martian surface. The
spacecraft will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California,
and land on Mars about six months later.
The technical capabilities and knowledge gained from Insight, and other
Mars missions, are crucial to NASA's journey to Mars, which includes sending
astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s.
"Today, our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way, making great
progress on the journey to Mars," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary
Science Division at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Together,
humans and robotics will pioneer Mars and the solar system."
During the environmental testing phase at Lockheed Martin's Space Systems
facility near Denver, the lander will be exposed to extreme temperatures,
vacuum conditions of nearly zero air pressure simulating interplanetary
space, and a battery of other tests over the next seven months. The first
will be a thermal vacuum test in the spacecraft's "cruise" configuration,
which will be used during its seven-month journey to Mars. In the cruise
configuration, the lander is stowed inside an aeroshell capsule and the
spacecraft's cruise stage - for power, communications, course corrections
and other functions on the way to Mars -- is fastened to the capsule.
"The assembly of InSight went very well and now it's time to see how it
performs," said Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin
Space Systems, Denver. "The environmental testing regimen is designed
to wring out any issues with the spacecraft so we can resolve them while
it's here on Earth. This phase takes nearly as long as assembly, but we
want to make sure we deliver a vehicle to NASA that will perform as expected
in extreme environments."
Other tests include vibrations simulating launch and checking for electronic
interference between different parts of the spacecraft. The testing phase
concludes with a second thermal vacuum test in which the spacecraft is
exposed to the temperatures and atmospheric pressures it will experience
as it operates on the Martian surface.
The mission's science team includes U.S. and international co-investigators
from universities, industry and government agencies.
"It's great to see the spacecraft put together in its launch configuration,"
said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, California. "Many teams from across the globe have worked long
hours to get their elements of the system delivered for these tests. There
still remains much work to do before we are ready for launch, but it is
fantastic to get to this critical milestone."
The InSight mission is led by JPL's Bruce Banerdt. The Centre National
d'Etudes Spatiales, France's space agency, and the German Aerospace Center
are each contributing a science instrument to the two-year scientific
mission. InSight's international science team includes researchers from
Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland,
the United Kingdom and the United States.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space Systems
Company built the lander.
For addition information about the mission, visit:
More information about NASA's journey to Mars is available online at:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov
Received on Wed 27 May 2015 08:03:01 PM PDT