New probe to ‘stare into’ Mars

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

then fol­low the space­craft for six months all the way to Mars.

They won’t stop at Mars, just fly past. The point is to test the two CubeSats as a po­ten­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tion link with In­Sight as it de­scends to the red planet on Novem­ber 26.

These Mars-bound cubes are nick­named WALL-E and EVE af­ter the an­i­mated movie char­ac­ters. That’s be­cause they’re equipped with the same type of propul­sion used in fire ex­tin­guish­ers to ex­pel foam.

In the 2008 movie, WALL-E used a fire ex­tin­guisher to propel it­self through space.

In­Sight is sched­uled to rocket away from cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia’s Van­den­berg Air Force Base early Satur­day. It will be Nasa’s first in­ter­plan­e­tary mis­sion launched from some­where other than Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Cal­i­for­ni­ans along the coast down to Baja will have front-row seats for the pre-dawn flight.

No mat­ter the launch­ing point, get­ting to Mars is hard.

The suc­cess rate, count­ing or­biters and lan­ders by Nasa and oth­ers, is only about 40 per cent. The US is the only coun­try to have suc­cess­fully landed and op­er­ated space­craft on Mars. The 1976 Vik­ings were the first land­ing suc­cesses.

In­Sight will use the same type of straight­for­ward para­chute de­ploy­ment and en­gine fir­ings dur­ing de­scent as Phoenix lan­der did in 2008. No bouncy air bags like the Spirit and Op­por­tu­nity rovers in 2004. No sky crane drop like Cu­rios­ity. - AP more.’’

But hopes for a quiet de­par­ture have not borne fruit.

Hu Jia, a dis­si­dent and long­time friend of the Lius, de­scribed Liao’s es­say as a ‘‘coun­ter­at­tack’’ against Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties prompted by an ‘‘awak­en­ing’’ af­ter hear­ing for months that Liu would soon be re­leased.

Cor­rob­o­rat­ing Liao’s ac­count, Hu said Liu had ini­tially been told by se­cu­rity agents to wait un­til af­ter the 19th Party Congress last fall, when Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping se­cured a sec­ond term at the helm of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party. Then, Hu said, they told her to wait un­til af­ter the meet­ing of the cer­e­mo­nial leg­is­la­ture in March. – AP

AP

This il­lus­tra­tion made avail­able by Nasa in 2018 shows the In­Sight lan­der drilling into Mars.

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