Published : Tuesday, August 28, 2018 | 2:57 PM
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine toured and met with scientists and engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on Monday. At one stop, he was briefed on the agency’s next Mars landing, InSight, by team members in the In-Situ Instrument Laboratory, where a full-scale engineering model of the spacecraft is being tested in preparation for the mission’s Nov. 26 landing on the Red Planet.
Among the other stops in the administrator’s day-long tour of JPL were the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, where he saw the Mars 2020 rover mission under construction; and the space simulator chamber where the Mars Helicopter is being tested in a Mars-like atmosphere.
The administrator was also briefed on the Europa Clipper mission and on JPL-led Earth research and missions.
InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all rocky planets formed, including Earth and its Moon. The lander’s instruments include a seismometer to detect marsquakes, and a probe that will monitor the flow of heat from the planet’s interior.
Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.
Additionally, scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes and leave them on the surface of Mars for potential return to Earth by a future mission to the Red Planet.