>> In just a few days, NASA plans to land a three-legged, one-armed robot on Mars.
Liftoff of the Atlas V.>> The culmination of a billion dollar mission to measure the core of the red planet.>> So we've been cruising to Mars for about seven months.
What we've been doing on the way there is we've been doing trajectory correction maneuvers. Those are designed to get us targeted to exactly the right spot in the atmosphere that we need to be, in order for us to land where we wanna land on Mars.>> But the landing set for Monday will all come down to a hair-raising six and a half minute descent from outer space to the rocky surface.
A landing that will depend on a specially designed heat shield meant to protect the robot's sensitive instruments from incinerating. The next phase of the landing sequence includes a supersonic parachute to further slow the landing. The robot will detach from the spacecraft, but is still moving too fast for a safe landing.
So onboard thrusters will fire to help ensure a soft touchdown. If it safely reaches the surface, the robot will then deploy its true payload, two tools aimed to go where none have gone before, beneath the surface of Mars.>> If we wanna understand what the insides of these rocky planets are like, we have to make different kinds of observations that can really penetrate down into the center of the planet.
>> One tool is a seismometer to measure Mars quakes. That's right, they don't call them earthquakes on other planets. The deep vibrations could tell scientists about the structure of the planet. The second tool will hammer a spike up to 15 feet deep to measure the change in temperature.
Both tools will transmit data back to Earth that will offer scientists clues as to how Mars was formed, and how it differs from our own planet. If all systems work, the mission, named Insight, is expected to last two Earth years.