On Monday, the American InSight mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic, Geodetic and Heat Transportation Investigations) made a gentle landing on the Mars Elysium plain. Today, the United States is the only country in the world with the experience and technological capabilities to carry out such operations, and the fact that Russia is often called a "miracle" is in fact the work of consistent engineers from the military industrial companies Lockheed Martin and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA and Caltech).
"Today we landed (this is a soft landing – about "Tapes.ru") on Mars for the eighth time in the history of mankind. InSight explores the inner world of Mars and gives us valuable knowledge as we prepare to send astronauts to the moon and then to Mars. This achievement shows the skills of America and our international partners, and also serves as evidence of our team's dedication and perseverance. "The best from NASA hasn't come yet and in the near future," said the head of the US space agency, Jim Brydenstein.
The 608 kilogram InSight mission starts braking in Mars's atmosphere at a distance of 128 kilometers from the planet's surface. The station enters the gas shell of a celestial body at a speed of 5.5 kilometers per second. The atmospheric decline takes about 6.5 minutes. The opening of a parachute with a diameter of 11.88 meters occurs at a distance of 12 kilometers from the surface of the planet. 40 seconds before the landing parachute is dropped. For 15 seconds before touching the surface, this device releases three pillars. With the help of 12 rocket engines, InSight dropped to the surface with a speed of around 8 kilometers per hour. Seven minutes after landing, the device sends a signal in the centimeter range. Nine minutes later, when the Martian dust raised by the equipment is complete, the opening of the solar panel begins, which takes about 16 minutes.
The mission lineage is traditionally accompanied by live broadcasts from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory flight control center. At the same place, seven hours after the landing, it was confirmed that the data obtained from InSight showed the full ability of the device to begin preparations for the implementation of the scientific program, which after inspecting the equipment, was scheduled to begin in March. The InSight landing gear is equipped with a SEISIC (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) seismometer and an HP probe (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), which drill a well five meters deep. The aim of this mission is to study the geological history of the Red Planet, in particular, the flow of heat from its depth, which is needed to find possible traces of life and NASA missions planned to Mars.
Communication with regular landing modules will be carried out through a remote space communication system. For the same purpose, it is planned to use several micro micro MarCo (Mars Cube One) for two weeks. Devices weighing 13.6 kilograms each (a set of six CubeSat) are equipped with 8 micromotors, receive and transmit antennas and are capable of transmitting information to Earth with a three-hour delay. With MarCo, NASA plans to demonstrate the ability to use microsatelit in space. A pair of vehicles managed to receive telemetry from InSight when they dropped, which they received on Earth, and one of the MarCo, after landing, took a picture of Mars from a distance of 6,000 kilometers.
The InSight module battery, which consists of 3,200 photocells, under Mars conditions, depends on the dust content in the atmosphere, must provide 300-600 watts of power. Similar equipment on Earth will produce about three to six times more power. An autonomous power supply installed in InSight can ensure station operations for only one Martian day (37 minutes longer than one day in the world). Although research within the framework of InSight is planned to be carried out on one Martian year (1.88 Earth years), it is possible to make decisions about the continuation of work based on the results obtained. Most likely, given the experience of NASA's long-distance space mission, this will happen.
Speaking of the InSight software landing on Mars, people cannot recall the failure of October 2016, when the Schiaparelli demonstration module of the ExoMars-2016 European-Russian mission fell on the surface of the Red Planet. The reason for this is a control system error, as a result of a device weighing 577 kilograms which prematurely turns off the brake rocket engine. At present, the TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) orbit station remains from the ExoMars-2016 mission. However, the EU and Russia did not lose their reliability to conduct soft landing in the future.
TGO orbital station
For 2020, it is planned to launch the second phase of the program, including landing and rover platforms. Russia for ExoMars-2020 will provide Proton-M launch vehicles, landing modules with landing platforms, and scientific instruments for rovers. The landing platform will accommodate around 50 kilograms of Russian-made scientific equipment, while six-wheeled vehicles, made under ESA control (European Space Agency), will only accommodate two Russian devices – the ISEM (Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars) and ADRON. The first examined the mineralogical composition of the soil, and the second (neutron spectrometer) searched for water at a depth of one meter. Also, the ExoMars rover will accept installations that allow it to drill Red Planet land to a depth of two meters.
The main management of the ExoMars-2020 system will be carried out by ESA, which will transfer the landing platform to Roskosmos only after leaving the plow. Because European and Russian scientific programs in the ExoMars-2018 mission will be completely separate (ESA will conduct basic research on rover, and Russia on the landing platform), the shared nature of the mission is somewhat conditional.
It should be noted that before ExoMars-2016, ESA in 2003 sent Mars Express Mars orbital station with Beagle 2 descent probes, which could not be connected after descending to the planet's surface. This module was discovered only 12 years later thanks to satellite imagery.
The experience of the Russian soft landing on Mars also leaves a lot to be desired. The Mars Express mission is based on the Russian program "Mars-96", which failed in 1996. Then the top-level D2 of the Proton-K launch vehicle did not carry stations out of the Earth's atmosphere. The launch failed in 2011 from the Phobos-Grunt mission, where the first Chinese Mars Marselitite Yinghuo-1 was also lost, only confirming the impossibility of modern Russia for independent exploration of space.
In fact, when talking about soft landings on Mars is a "miracle", or that half of those efforts end in failure, it should be noted that the majority of these failures belong to the Soviet Union. Therefore, it is quite "logical" that in modern Russia such an event is considered a "miracle". Of the eight successful soft landings on the surface of Mars, where Brydenstein spoke, only one belonged to the Soviet Union. However, this is the world's first soft landing of man-made equipment (the Soviet Mars-3 module) on the surface of Mars, held in December 1971, can only be considered conditional, because after contact with the planet's surface, the mission works in less than two minutes .
The rest of the soft landings on the Red Planet, including NASA's long-term scientific mission. For this reason, soft landing technology on the surface of Mars in the United States has worked with a very high level of reliability. In particular, in developing the landing pattern for Insight, the engineers used the Phoenix experience, the sixth vehicle that successfully landed on the surface of Mars. Instead, this new mission receives a thicker heat shield and a sturdy braking parachute.
The real technological abilities of the United States are understood in the West. Initially, ESA did not intend to cooperate with Russia on Mars Express, Europe saw its partners as the United States, which should have provided Atlas 5 heavy reinforcers. However, NASA's budget allowance in 2012 resulted in America's refusal to cooperate with ESA, opportunities, that risky, especially considering the previous accident "Phobos-Grunt", to cooperate with Russia. At the same time, Russia's direct error in the incident with Schiaparelli was almost non-existent, because the ESA recommended that developers limit themselves to computer simulations of how machines enter the Martian atmosphere, rather than conducting physical experiments with Schiaparelli prototypes. If this really fits the actual situation, then ExoMars-2020 can expect not to be as successful as luck. Especially in partnership with Russia.