NASA's InSight Lander Nearing Mars Touchdown

An artist’s rendering of the twin Mars Cube One spacecraft as they fly through deep space. Image credit NASA  JPL-Caltech

The possibility wasn't explored until now as many scientists believed that Mars was unable to sustain life due to the lack of an Earth-like atmosphere, which allows weather cycles while keeping our planet warm and habitable, as the oxygen levels found in the samples can be compared to those present on Earth in our times.

NASA's InSight lander is scheduled to make contact with Mars on November 26th.

A team led by scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), calculated that if liquid water exists on Mars, it could - under specific conditions - contain more oxygen than previously thought.

A wide-angle camera attached to one of two identical CubeSat satellites took the photo approximately 8 million miles from Mars on October 3 as a test of its exposure settings, according to a Cal Poly news release. In this picture, Mars looks like a small red dot in the dark sky. Recently, NASA released the first image of Mars ever captured by one of these mini-satellites. This journey will also reveal the capabilities of communication as the InSight spacecraft of NASA will try to land of the surface of the planet. After several test images, they were excited to see that clear, red pinprick. The MarCOs are "chasing" Mars, which is a moving target as it orbits the Sun. In order to be in place for InSight's landing on Cyber Monday, the CubeSats still have about 53 million miles (85 million kilometers) to cover. "They have already traveled 248 million miles (399 million km)", added NASA in the recent statement.

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"We've been waiting six months to get to Mars", said Cody Colley, MarCO's mission manager at JPL. This class of satellites that is small enough to fit in a backpack was originally created to teach university students about satellites' mechanism. Maybe one day other planets will have a group of CubeSats above them beaming back regular image data back to Earth.

The MarCO satellites, which measure 12 inches tall, 4 inches deep and 8 inches wide, arrived on campus in San Luis Obispo on February 28, the release said.

The satellites launched May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the same United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport lander.

One month from today, Mars will welcome a new robotic resident that seeks to probe the planet's innards.


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