An artistic vision of the Elysium region on Mars, where NASA's InSight spacecraft is scheduled to land on November 26
A few more days and NASA will finally land its robotic geologist on Mars. This is the InSight spacecraft, which should be in contact with the Martian surface on November 26th.
The cost of the project is $ 850 million. Scientists have long chosen the area for landing. In the end, they decided to land on the ellipsoid section of Elysium - a large volcanic plain, located just north of the landing site of the Curiosity rover.
When choosing a landing site, researchers were guided by two key criteria. The first is security. Landing on the surface of the Red Planet is still a complicated and risky procedure due to the subtle atmosphere. Therefore, the InSight team was looking for a relatively flat area.
The second criterion is science. It is important that the landing site meets the scientific requirements of the mission. InSight - landing device, deprived of the ability to navigate around Mars. So, the chosen location should allow to place scientific instruments and a probe that goes deeper 5 m below the surface in order to get information about the temperature of the planet. Other restrictions included the level of solar lighting, which should be sufficient to maintain InSight functionality. Initially, 22 potential landing sites were considered. But only three were the strongest candidates. Of these, the Elysium Plain seems to be the most flat and devoid of a huge amount of stones or strong winds.
On November 26, the InSight team will try to make a soft landing on the selected location 130 km long and 27 km wide. At the entrance, descent and landing will take 6 minutes. After that, the landing site will deploy the solar panels, unpack the tools and begin to explore the Martian secrets.