Probe to land on Red Planet

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

A SPACECRAFT hurtling to­wards Mars will be the first to study the deep in­te­rior of the planet – if it lands safely.

The In­Sight probe is sched­uled to land at around 8am GMT to­mor­row, sci­en­tists said. It must slow down from 12,300mph to just 5mph, the equiv­a­lent of hu­man jog­ging speed, in just seven min­utes af­ter hit­ting Mars’ at­mos­phere, Nasa said.

Only around four in 10 mis­sions ever sent to the Red Planet have been suc­cess­ful, and the US is the only na­tion whose mis­sions have sur­vived land­ings.

The Euro­pean spacecraft Schi­a­par­elli smashed into the planet in 2016 af­ter switch­ing off its retro­rock­ets too early, sci­en­tists be­lieve.

It was test­ing the land­ing sys­tem for a Bri­tish-built rover to be launched on the se­cond phase of the Ex­oMars mis­sion in 2020.

The ex­tremely thin at­mos­phere of Mars means there is hardly any fric­tion to slow down spacecraft, mean­ing In­Sight will de­ploy small rock­ets, parachutes, heat shields and shock-ab­sorb­ing legs to man­age the de­cel­er­a­tion.

If suc­cess­ful, the probe will al­low sci­en­tists to learn about how rocky worlds like the Earth formed more than 4.5 bil­lion years ago.

It comes af­ter a huge 12-mile wide lake of wa­ter was dis­cov­ered be­neath the south­ern ice cap of the Red Planet ear­lier this year.

The dis­cov­ery, which has ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for the chances of life sur­viv­ing on Mars, was made by an or­bit­ing Euro­pean probe us­ing ground-pen­e­trat­ing radar.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.