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VP Pence Visits NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ahead of Mars InSight Launch

05 Mai 2018

"Our heat shield is not very similar to Mars 2020's, but of course, we use some of the same processes and some of the same designs", said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Saturday's tour of JPL was one ofseveral stops the vice president made to the Southland - the region in California between Los Angeles and the U.S. -Mexico border - over the weekend, according to NBC San Diego. But it remains to be seen whether the marine layer will hamper those hoping to watch Vandenberg Air Force Base's first mission to Mars.

It was only in 2003 that scientists, delving into tiny variations in Mars' gravitational pull on one of NASA's orbiting spacecraft, concluded that the core must still be at least partly molten.

InSight's primary mission is for two years, but if all goes well it could be extended.

Selected for development eight years ago, Smrekar explained that the premise of the InSight mission - understanding how rocky planets form by determining the geophysics of the red planet - will be accomplished using high-tech instruments placed on the Martian surface. It will also help us understand the size and make-up of Mars' core, such as what materials it's composed of and how dense it is. This will be the first deep-space testing of CubeSat technology.

On Saturday, NASA will launch its latest and greatest mission to Mars. Normally, interplanetary missions are launched from Florida, but due to some peculiar circumstances the site was moved to California.

"We'll study its pulse by "listening" for marsquakes with a seismometer", he says. Onboard will be a lander named InSight, an $813.8 million mission to study the interior of the Red Planet.

"To me, that's as close as you can get to magic and still be science", Banerdt said. Measuring nearly 16 feet, the probe will help scientists track the flow of heat through Mars' interior. -European mission, which will measure Mars' seismic activity and interior temperature shifts. The discovery could help the group understand more about Martian environments that might have supported life in the planet's distant past.

Back in town, some Lompoc residents are wearing their "Mission to Mars" pins, eager to witness history firsthand. Banerdt called those "handicapped experiments", joking, "We didn't do seismology on Mars - we did it 3 feet above Mars".

The lander's second instrument, a heat probe, will be hammered into Mars' crust. Luckily, InSight is a bit smaller than other landers, so ULA was able to use the four-meter Atlas V rocket, the 401 version, instead of the larger five-meter rocket.

The senior researchers have awaited a permanent geophysical base on another planet for decades to measure seismic activity shaking Mars from within ("marsquakes", Johnson said), and how heat flows deep within the planet. It needs to burrow deep enough to be insulated from the temperature variations of Mars' days and seasons. The briefcase-sized spacecraft will test out new deep space communication equipment and, if they survive the journey, could also relay data from InSight as it makes the plunge into the Martian atmosphere.

WALL-E and EVE are headed to Mars. A two-hour launch window is scheduled each day through June 8. Perhaps InSight will be able to answer some very important questions like why Earth is a habitable paradise and Mars is a cold and barren rock.

VP Pence Visits NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ahead of Mars InSight Launch