News / Science & Technology

2016 Mars Mission Landing Sites Narrowed to Four

The four semifinalist sites located close together in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. The mission known by the acronym InSight will study the Red Planet's interior.
The four semifinalist sites located close together in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. The mission known by the acronym InSight will study the Red Planet's interior.

Related Articles

Video NASA Readies Lunar Mission, Invites International Participation

US space agency launching the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, known as LADEE, on September 7 around 0330 UTC

Massive Volcano Erupts on Jupiter's Moon, Io

The eruption was bigger than any ever recorded on Earth

Video Mega Canyon Discovered in Greenland

The canyon is at least 750 kilometers long

Super Storm Offers Peek into Saturn's Atmosphere

Water ice was churned up from deep inside the atmosphere
VOA News
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has narrowed down the potential landing sites for a 2016 mission to Mars to four locations.

Twenty-two sites were originally considered for the mission, which the scientists are calling the Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander. It is scheduled to launch in March of 2016 and land on Mars six months later.

Scientists will focus two of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter cameras on the chosen four sites in the coming months to make a final decision between them. All four spots lie near each other on an equatorial plane in an area of Mars called Elysium Planitia.

NASA hopes the InSight lander will provide information on how Mars was formed, which also could provide a better understanding of how the rocky planets of the Solar System, including Earth, formed.

Unlike other missions, the main factor in determining the 2016 landing site is safety, meaning the sites should have a smooth terrain, few rocks and very little slope.

"This mission's science goals are not related to any specific location on Mars because we're studying the planet as a whole, down to its core," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at JPLin a statement. "Mission safety and survival are what drive our criteria for a landing site."

Each of the four sites is an ellipse measuring 130 kilometers from east to west and 27 kilometers from north to south. NASA says the InSight will have a 99 percent chance of landing within the chosen ellipse.

Elysium Planitia meets the requirements for InSight because it is close to the equator, so that the spacecraft’s solar array will be able to provide power all year. Also the areas are all low enough to allow the landing craft to decelerate more completely before landing.

The only other two areas of Mars meeting the requirements of being near the equator at low elevation, Isidis Planitia and Valles Marineris, were said to be too rocky and windy. Valles Marineris also lacks any swath of flat ground large enough for a safe landing.

Another requirement is that InSight needs to land on ground that allows the lander to deploy a heat-flow probe that will hammer itself several meters into the Martian surface to monitor heat coming from the planet’s interior.

In order to ensure there no hard rocks that might block the probe, scientists studied Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of large rocks near Martian craters formed by asteroid impacts. Impacts excavate rocks from the subsurface, so by looking in the area surrounding craters, the scientists can tell if the subsurface would have probe-blocking rocks lurking beneath the soil surface.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs