Red planet to get first U.S. visitor in years
ous tumble during descent, or the parachute could get tangled. A dust storm like the one that enveloped Mars this past summer could hamper InSight’s ability to generate solar power. A leg could buckle. The arm could jam.
The tensest time for flight controllers in Pasadena, Calif.: the six minutes from the time the spacecraft hits Mars’ atmosphere and touchdown. They’ll have jars of peanuts on hand — a good-luck tradition dating back to 1964’s successful Ranger 7 moon mission.
InSight will enter Mars’ atmosphere at a supersonic 12,300 mph, relying on its white nylon parachute and a series of engine firings to slow down enough for a soft upright landing on Mars’ Elysium Planitia, a sizable equatorial plain.
Hoffman hopes it’s “like a Walmart parking lot in Kansas.”