Spacecraft set to be first to explore deep interior of red planet

- Advertisement -

A spacecraft hurtling towards Mars will be the first to study the deep interior of the planet if it survives the landing.

The InSight probe is scheduled to arrive on Martian soil at around 8pm GMT on Monday, scientists said.

To land smoothly it must slow down from 12,300mph to 5 mph, the equivalent of human jogging speed, in just seven minutes after hitting Mars’s atmosphere, Nasa said.

The European spacecraft Schiaparelli smashed into the planet in 2016 after switching off its retro-rockets too early, scientists believe.

It was testing the landing system for a British-built rover to be launched on the second phase of the ExoMars mission in 2020.

The extremely thin atmosphere of Mars means there is hardly any friction to slow down spacecraft, meaning InSight will deploy small rockets, parachutes, heat shields and shock-absorbing legs to manage the deceleration.

If successful, the three-legged probe will send information back, allowing scientists to learn about how rocky worlds like the Earth and Moon formed more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at Nasa, said: “Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars’ deep interior — information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home.”

Mars lander
The InSight probe is scheduled to arrive on Martian soil at around 8pm GMT on Monday (Nasa/JPL-Caltech/PA)

It comes after a huge 12-mile wide lake of water was discovered beneath the southern ice cap of the Red Planet earlier this year.

The discovery, which has major implications for the chances of life surviving on Mars, was made by an orbiting European probe using ground-penetrating radar.

It is the first time a large stable body of liquid water has been confirmed to exist on Mars.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.