This evening at around 9pm a group of scientists will be going through moments of breathless anxiety as the special NASA vehicle InSight is expected to try and land on Mars.
After a flight of six months, the space vehicle will split into two so that part of it enters into the atmosphere of the red planet and land there. This operation is similar to the capsule which was used in the 60s and 70s for the Apollo missions to the moon.
The landing will be difficult for NASA scientists because if the capsule is not navigated with precision there is a chance that it will end up being lost in space rather than landing on Mars. This stage of the landing is expected to take 7 minutes which are crucial for NASA this evening, which is why they are known as the ‘7 minutes of terror’. The scientists are worried because so far only 18 missions towards Mars have been successful, out of the 44 attempts which have been made by various national space agencies to land on Mars.
The expectation for InSight is great because instead of simply circling and inspecting the surface of Mars, it is expected to shed light on what there is on the planet, while trying to obtain information about the movement of Mars in space, how earthquakes occur, as well as the temperature of the planet to determine how it emits heat.
This information is interesting for various reasons, including to learn how the planet was formed and whether there is a chance that water will be found on it, or whether there is a lake buried on Mars.
The exploration of the solar system is the first step towards the study of the stars. The mission, InSight will be trying to continue satisfying man’s curiosity about the mysteries there are in space. But first, we have to wait and see what happens tonight!