NASA has completed the testing of its most ambitious project pertaining to the Red Planet — a stationary lander called InSight — which will be test-launched in March 2016 to prepared the ground for the manned missions in 2030s.
InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, measures the size of a car that will be fully devoted to study the interior strcture of Mars and it will supplement the knowledge gained from the Curiosity Rover on Mars already.
Currently, NASA is testing the InSight mission to work in harsh Mars atmosphere that has been created in its labs with extreme heat and rocky surface. Once the Mars Lander is approved, it will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for its onward journey to Mars that would take six months.
Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver was upbeat about the mission confirming that the assembly part was over. “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.”
He added that it took six months for the assembly of the mission and another six months to test the machine on artificially created Mars environment in its labs. “We want to make sure we deliver a vehicle to NASA that will perform as expected in extreme environments.”
On seding robotics ahead of the manned mission, Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington said:”Together, humans and robotics will pioneer Mars and the solar system.”
The mission being manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems facility near Denver, will be exposed to extreme temperatures, vacuum conditions of nearly zero air pressure, interplanetary space conditions, and a host of other tests. The first test will be a thermal vacuum test in the spacecraft’s “cruise” configuration as the aircraft will be cruising in this atmosphere on its first six to seven months journey before landing on Mars.
During the cruise phase, the lander is stowed inside an aeroshell capsule and the InSight’s cruise stage – for power, communications, course corrections and other functions on the way to Mars — is fastened to the capsule, explained the program manager. Other tests include vibrations simulating launch and checking for electronic interference.
After this phase, it will again go for a second thermal vacuum test in which the spacecraft is exposed to the Mars-like temperatures and atmospheric pressures and NASA is roping US and international co-researchers from universities, industry and government agencies to work on the project.
InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said many teams from across the globe have worked to get the 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,” he explained in a statement.
Led by JPL’s Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission is in association with global entities like the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, France’s space agency, and the German Aerospace Center, besdies a host of scientists from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the United States.
Here are some crucial stage of Insight in Making at JPL: