NASA's Mars InSight Mission briefing highlights
NASA's Mars InSight Mission briefing highlights
14:01

NASA's Mars InSight Mission briefing highlights

Science
Hello, and welcome to NASA headquarters. My name is Dwayne Brown with the Office of Communications, your host for today's program, where during the next hour, we'll take you on NASA's upcoming epic trek back to Mars. On November 26, NASA's Mars InSight lander will touch down on the red planet, becoming the first ever mission To study the heart of Mars. Mars has a heart, you ask? Well, stay with us to get a better understanding of that and much more. I have my Red Planet red tie on. Are you ready? Let's go to Mars. Thank you Thank you, Dwayne. I can't express to you the excitement that I have to stand up here in front of you today less than a month to landing. I've been working on this project for more than seven years. And to get to this point, we're on the precipice of landing on Mars. Gonna get back some groundbreaking science. Is absolutely a tremendous feeling to me. Many of the team members that you're gonna hear about today have been working on this even longer than I have, so I know they're equally if not more excited than I am to tell you about this great mission. First off, our trip to Mars started May 5th of this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base. It was the very first interplanetary launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. So what have we been doing since we've launched? We've been in what we call our cruise phase. So we've been doing engineering check outs, science check outs of the different instruments before we get to Mars to make sure we're completely ready once we get there. And so we launched as I said on the 5th of May. So we've been on a ballistic trajectory to Mars. We've been getting closer every day, and right now on Halloween day we're very very close to Mars, catching up. When we do enter the atmosphere We're going to be going at about 12,300 miles per hour. And in just six and a half minutes we're going to get down to five miles per hour just before we land. And I'm going to explain to you exactly how we do that. It's a very interesting concept. So we start out with our cruise stage, which has been giving us our power and communications since we launched. As soon as we get to the atmosphere, we get rid of that cruise stage. So, this is what it looks like. Our cruise stage is at the back end, we let that go. We have the arrow shell which contains our lander in it. It hits the atmosphere, starts heating up. You can see it gets very, very hot. That's slowing it down, most of the speed. So it gets to about 850 miles per hour When we pop this parachute, the parachute takes us down close to the ground, we get rid of our heat shield that has been protecting us in the atmosphere. And then we start acquiring the ground with our radar from the lander. That tells us what our elevation is and lets us know when it's time to let go. We free-fall, which is absolutely terrifying for me as a project manager knowing my spacecraft is falling to the ground. But we do start firing rockets and we slow down to about five miles per hour by the time we actually get down to the surface. Right when we get there we'll go ahead and turn off those retro rockets, let the dust settle, literally. You can see it's kicking up a fair amount of dust and then we have one more important step, which is to unfurl our solar rays, since we are the very first lander on Mars to last for entire Martian year, 26 Earth months. Not moving a just using solar power, it's important for us to get the solar rays out. That completes what we call Our entry, descent, and landing phase, and now we're ready to start doing the science. One of the very first things that we're gonna do when we land is we're gonna take a picture of what our landing area looks like because we have to go through something we call instrument deployment. You're gonna hear more about later from some of the other speakers, but just getting to the surface of Mars and getting our solar rays unfurled is not enough. We actually have to take the instruments off the deck. And put them on the [UNKNOWN] surface so that's why we're hoping that we see a picture kinda like this which is a really flat looking area not much like a giant Walmart parking lot. Hopefully with not [UNKNOWN] any rocks in the area. This is a little bit rockier than I'd like to see, so hopefully it's really not It really is a safe area to place our instruments. One of the other things that's really interesting about this mission is it's not just one spacecraft going to mars, it's not just insight, we actually have two tag alongs that flew with us on the Atlas V and we have been tracking at us ever since called MarCO. So that stands for Mars Cube One. So we have two of them MarCO A And Marco B, they're about the size of a briefcase, so they're not very big spacecraft at all. But their main purpose is to do a technology demonstration showing that we can put cubesats into interstellar space. They've been successful at doing that. But we're really really hoping that one of the other things we're going to be able to do is give us communications while we're doing our entry descent and landing phase. Often times, we've had other assets that have been able to do real time information for that phase, but this time we don't have those assets in the right position. So we brought along our own relay assets. And they look like this. There's two of them. This is the UHF antenna at the bottom. They have an xSpan that'll be talking back to Earth for us. They'll fly in formation trailing behind us, waiting for us to start giving them a UHF signal through here. And then they'll be broadcasting that back to Earth so we'll know exactly what's happening each step of the entry, descent and landing process. So this'll be what it looks like when we get there. So the two Marco's are on either site of Insight as it's entering. We have MRO, or Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, that will also be collecting the data, but it can't send back the data real-time, only the Marco's can do that real time, so we hope that they work out As a technology demonstration. So what is it that we're doing with Insight? I mean, Insight is going to explore the deep interior of Mars, from the crust, all the way down to the center of the planet, to its core. So really, the first mission to go and look deeply into the insides of a rocky planet, other than the Earth-moon system, and We're going to Mars specifically to look back into the origin of the planets of the solar system. And, how do we do that? How do we look deep inside a planet? Well, the best way to do it is by using seismology. And, seismology uses what are called seismic waves which are basically just vibrations shaking in the planet. To probe deep into the planet. So those waves propagate through the planet, and as they propagate, you can see that they get bent. They go in different directions, it affects the wavelengths, it affects the amplitudes. And then when we measure Measure those amplitudes, measure those vibrations at the surface, we have techniques that we can use to sort of unravel the entire pathway through the planet, and figure out what kind of materials that they path Pass through, what kind of interfaces that they may have bounced off of. And then we can use that information to understand the size, the composition, and the configuration of all of the layers of the inside of the planet. Particularly the core The mantle and the crust. In order to do this we need to be able to get our instruments on to the surface of the planet. Now for Apollo, we actually had a very convenient deployment system called the human being. This is Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 deploying the first size monitor that was ever operated off of the Earth, back in 1969. This is the size monitor down here. That he's just carried from the lunar excursion module and place onto the surface at a decent distance away from the space craft, this had it's own power supply with it and it's own communication system, and this was sort of the beginning of our exploration of the deep interior planets other than the earth Similarly, we put a heat flow probe onto the moon, actually several of them, this is [UNKNOWN] from Apollo 15, a little bit after he made that trip down the latter that I showed you earlier, and here he is drilling down into the planet. So in order to measure the heat flow coming out of a planet, you have to measure the temperature, not only at the surface But down at depth as well so you can find out how much of that heat is escaping from deep inside the planet. And you can see that he's leaning on that thing. He's pushing it down. It's not really easy to dig into or to drill into rock or even into soil. This is a fairly difficult process. We don't have astronauts on Insight, you may have noticed, so we have to get a little bit more clever about how to do that. And our next couple of speakers are gonna talk a little bit more about the deployment process, how we robotically sort of mimic the kinds of things that we were doing with astronauts back in the 60s and 70s. So we're gonna talk a little bit about how Insight actually accomplishes this amazing science. And what I'm gonna show you here is a seismic event happening near the surface. And it's gonna interact with these layers near the surface. And I'll show you what it actually looks like at our lander. So here the seismic wave is interacting with those layers near the surface. At the top you're seeing the seismometer reports. So this is, we've been talking about the pulse of Mars, the heartbeat, and this is what our seismometer is actually going to record. You're seeing two different ways there. You're seeing the vertical displacement of the ground And you're also seeing the horizontal displacement of the ground. Okay, so as you know, we have also a heat flow and physical properties package, the HVQ, and we don't have the benefit of the astronaut to drill a hole for us. So, the HVQ actually has to Hammer itself under the ground. And what you're seeing here, it's basically a nail that contains its own hammer. A motor compresses the spring, that spring is released and it accelerates that mass downward, which it acts like a hammer on top of this cylinder which we call a mole. The mole goes down a couple of feet into the ground and send out a pulse of heat. What it is doing there is measuring the thermal properties of the soil. When it sends out that pulse we determine how long it takes for it to cool off again. And that tells us where the soil is insulating or conducting. We go down All the way to the end of the tether. My family likes to tell me I'm short, and so it looks like it's kind of a short tether compared to me, but in fact, what we want to do is get down to about ten to 16 feet. All along this tether, there is a string of ten temperature sensors. And what were gonna do is determine how fast the temperature increases with depth. That tells us about the heat coming out of the planet. That energy that's available for driving geological activity. So we want to go down 10 to 16 feet because at the surface there's a lot temperature variation going on. There's daily temperature variation, there's seasonal temperature variation even our lander causes variations in the temperature. So we want to get down to ten to 16 feet, because when we get down that deep, we get away from all of the temperature variations near the surface. As you know, before we can start working with our instruments, we have to be able to deploy them onto the surface. And this is an animation of our robotic arm Picking up the seismometer, or the six seismometers inside this package, and placing it on the surface of Mars. In this video, it takes about 20 seconds for this to occur. On Mars it's gonna take about two to three months before we actually have our seismometer on the ground. The reason for that is that we're gonna take all of the data that we possibly can to choose an optimal place before we put our instruments down. So as soon as we get on the surface we're gonna start taking image data to look for the rock distribution, we're gonna take stereo images that help us determine how big are those rocks, if there are any slopes within the reach of the arm. We're also gonna take temperature data of the surface. Temperature data helps us determine what the particles sizes are on the surface. And that can give us information about whether we think the instruments might settle at all after we place them on On the surface. So we wanna take all the data, assimilate that and try to chose the best location to put our instruments down. As you just showed the video of the seismometer being deployed, I'll show you that that's the configuration that things are in right now. So, we have here actually the wind and thermal shield that will be deployed on top of the seismommeter. So I'll lift this up. What this does it is keeps the seismometer from getting too cold at night. It also protects it from the wind measurements. Legs are supposed to fold down [LAUGH]. The wind measurements that could affect the seismic data. So this is the seismometer. It's self containing, the six seismometers or sensors that you talked about earlier. And it's tethered here with cabling, so we call this the tether. It's cabling that connects the seismometer to the lander, which allows the lander to provide power to the seismometer, and allows the seismometer to send data back to the lander. [BLANK_AUDIO] So the other instrument, the heat flow probe, is still up here on the deck. This is where it'll be when it lands, before it's deployed. So you can see it back here, here's the heat flow probe, HB cubed. [BLANK_AUDIO] Okay, and then I've already pointed out the two cameras. Better right here. And this is the grapple that we have at the end of the robotic arm. This has got five fingers, which connect to a hook on top of each of the instruments, and that's what enables us to play them with the robotic arm. All right, awesome, thank you so much, Jamie. [BLANK_AUDIO] [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] All right, [LAUGH] so I can't wait to see the images of the surface of Mars, and to let Jamie and her team get into action.

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