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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid