Tuesday, August 28, 2018

NASA Administrator Visits JPL, Talks Exploration

NASA Administrator James Bridenstine (left) discusses the agency's next Mars landing mission in the In-Situ Instrument Laboratory where an engineering model of the InSight is being tested at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. InSight is currently on its way to Mars. On Nov. 26, 2018, it will touch down in Mars' Elysium Planitia region, where it will be the first mission to study the deep interior or the Red Planet. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.  To the right of Bridenstine, from left to right, are JPLers Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator; Marlene Sundgaard, InSight systems engineer; Michael Watkins, director of JPL; Larry James, deputy director of JPL; Jakob van Zyl, JPL director for solar system exploration; and Keyur Patel, JPL deputy director for solar system exploration. The decagonal object in the foreground is a mockup of one of two solar arrays on the InSight lander. The white-domed object at the administrator's feet is a mockup of SEIS, a seismometer which will record quakes on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine toured and met with scientists and engineers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Monday, Aug. 27. 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.

Credit: NASA

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