Everything You Need to Know About NASA's Mars InSight

Clark Diaz
November 24, 2018

Jezero Crater will be where NASA's yet-to-be-named rover will land on February 18, 2021, the space agency announced today.

There are a number of factors that NASA had to consider while choosing a landing site.

NASA's InSight lander is now just a few days away from landing on the surface of Mars.

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It won't be easy - the atmosphere on Mars is about 1% as thick as Earth's, which provides enough friction to burn up a spacecraft but makes it hard to slow down enough for a safe landing.

NASA said as well as its river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

While Earth's tectonics and other forces have erased most evidence of its early history, much of Mars - about one-third the size of Earth - is believed to have remained relatively static for more than 3 billion years, creating a geologic time machine for scientists.

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A similar discovery would mark a new era in the exploration of Mars, which started in 1965 when the USA launched its first mission to the red planet. It will also help us learn more about how the rocky planets in the inner solar system formed four billion years ago.

Nasa aimed for as flat an area as possible so the lander does not tip over and thereby kill the mission, and so the robotic arm can set the science instruments down.

The crater was chosen after a five-year search that examined some 60 other sites on Mars.

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Launched on May 5, Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander marks NASA's first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012. Until then, as Philippe Laudet, who leads the seismometer project on InSight, said when wrapping up his portion of the news conference, it's "Goodbye, thank you, and see you on Mars next week!" It'll be heating up even further a week from today with the arrival of NASA's Mars InSight lander. "While everybody's off having turkey tomorrow, there will be a bunch of people here at JPL [NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] working all day long, hopefully taking a little bit of a break for a turkey dinner, but largely working to make sure we land successfully on Mars". China is planning to get in on the action with its first-ever Mars mission, also due for launch during 2020's favorable launch opportunity.

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