The renowned space agency NASA launched its space probe InSight today with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. It is scheduled to reach Mars by November 2018, where it will conduct experiments to study the surface of the planet. It was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The probe, according to the plan, is supposed to help scientists investigate the secrets covered inside the surface of Mars.
About the InSight probe
InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The probe was originally designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in 2010. It was supposed to launch in 2016, but was postponed due to technical issues. It involves usage of two scientific instruments. First, a seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). It will be used to identify impacts by meteorites and ‘marsquakes’. Second is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3). It will conduct experiments below the surface, almost 5 meters, to analyze the heat there.
WALL-E and EVE sent to MARS too!
With the probe, there are 2 CubeSats, to test CubeSat navigation and endurance in deep space. Also, they will perform real-time communications during probe’s entry, descent, and landing. They are called Mars Cube One, or Marco. Marco consists of two briefcase-size spacecraft, dubbed Wall-E and Eva. They are both named after the bots in the Disney movie WALL-E. Awe-stricken to see NASA pulling off such things! They both will launch with InSight but fly separately to Mars. Furthermore, these are the first CubeSats to travel to another planet!
Regarding the Name chips…
NASA gave a chance to the public to submit their names, to enable them to send it to Mars aboard InSight in 2017. There were around 2.4 million entries, in which around 8,20,000 names were registered in 2015 before the mission got postponed. In addition to that further, 1.6 million names were added in 2017. A fun fact regarding these chips is that these names are etched on 8mm Silicon wafers and the letters are about 1/1000 the width of a human hair! Also, they were etched using an electron beam.
“In essence, it will take the vital signs of Mars — its pulse, temperature and much more. We like to say it’s the first thorough checkup since the planet formed around 4.5 billion years ago.” said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in March during a conference. While the probe is expected to reach Mars by 26 November 2018 if things go according to plan. It is expected to reveal many secrets of the planet but most of all if succeeded it will open up a wide path to planet exploration!