The rovers and orbiters currently used to study Mars will get a new companion today. The new addition is NASA’s InSight spacecraft, which was designed to study the Red Planet’s “Marsquakes” and dig for extraterrestrial life. After seven months of venturing through space, the InSight landing is set for Monday at 3 p.m. Eastern.
The spacecraft will land 91 million miles from Earth, but we’ll be able to watch it touch down. NASA will be setting up live broadcast parties to watch the InSight landing across the country, but you can also watch the event comfortably from your home. NASA TV will begin the live broadcast between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Other websites like Facebook may also live-stream this historical event.
The viewing parties are set for Times Square, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Californian Science Center in Los Angeles, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, and other major venues. If you don’t live in the U.S., international viewing parties will be held at various locations in France, Germany and other countries. The list of viewing parties across the globe can be found here. The initial loading will take you to the U.S.-based locations, but before the list starts, you can click a link which opens a table of international locations.
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The InSight landing should go through several phases before the spacecraft finally touches down on Mars. InSight, short for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport,” will use small rockets to push through the atmosphere of the Red Planet.
If everything goes as planned, the InSight landing will last approximately six minutes, from the time the spacecraft enters the planet’s atmosphere to the moment it touches its surface. There are some issues which could extend this time, like the dust storms currently raging in the northern hemisphere, which is where the spacecraft is expected to land.
“InSight lands during northern hemisphere autumn on Mars, when dust storms are known to have grown to global proportions in some prior years,” NASA’s website states in the explanation of the InSight landing process.
So what can we expect from the live footage of the landing? NASA’s commentators could do a mock-up of the landing footage, considering that the signal received from Mars isn’t immediately broadcast to Earth. Since the distance between Earth and Mars is quite large, NASA may not even know whether the landing was successful or not until several hours after the scheduled broadcast.
This is why NASA plans to use several spacecraft to make sure that everything is going according to the plan. Radio telescopes should catch a signal from InSight known as a “tone,” which it should broadcast after it lands. Seven minutes later, it will send a stronger tone to confirm the health of its components.
NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter will also greet InSight by taking a few photos of the landing. InSight is also carrying two experimental spacecraft which will take some photos, according to NASA.