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“After a seven-month journey, Nasa’s InSight probe is about to reach Mars and – if touchdown goes to plan – embark on an unprecedented mission to map the planet’s interior.
The lander will aim for one of the dullest parts of the planet’s dusty surface, Elysium Planitia, a vast lava plain that the US space agency calls “the biggest parking lot on Mars”. The flat, rockless expanse was deemed the perfect place for InSight to record tremors unleashed by “Marsquakes” and to measure heat flow in the planet’s upper layers.
The $814m (£633m) mission will help scientists understand the Martian core, crust and mantle, allowing them for the first time to know how the planet formed at the dawn of the solar system 4.6bn years ago.
Landing a probe on Mars remains a tricky business for rocket scientists: only 40% of missions have succeeded. Nasa is the only space agency to have pulled off a landing on the planet, most recently in 2012 when the Curiosity rover was winched to the surface by a “sky crane”. In 2016 the European Space Agency attempted to put a lander on Mars, but the Schiaparelli probe switched off its retro-rockets too soon and smashed into the ground.
The InSight lander is expected to touch down at about 8pm GMT on Monday, and multiple critical steps will need to work perfectly. The spacecraft will hurtle into the thin Martian atmosphere at 13,200mph, deploy a parachute and fire 12 retro-thrusters to cushion its landing. Nasa calls the entry, descent and landing phase of its Mars missions the “seven minutes of terror”. Confirmation of the landing will be beamed back to Earth via two experimental cube satellites that have trailed the probe to its destination.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The results were surprising. The center-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, remained in power against the opposition Labor party, which had led in every poll for years."
"Anger seldom works against Trump; he owns the currency and can always issue more of it. In addressing the rogue President directly, or speaking about him in the third person, Pelosi usually adopts a tone that is more sorrowful than angry..."
"I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews."
"Kids are exposed to plenty of controversial social issues on a daily basis. And if parents don’t want their kids to watch “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” they can turn off the TV."
"Are public-school teachers really underpaid? It’s a claim often made during teacher pay disputes, but the same data and statistical methods that produce the “teacher salary gap” lead to some ridiculous conclusions..."
"Tech companies are getting into the business of making cities. We need to stop Silicon Valley social engineering before things get even worse."
"Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life: Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government."
"“What name . . . shall we give to the darkness of hell...?” The question of how we can name a place such as this is at the center of scholar Scott G. Bruce’s new anthology The Penguin Book of Hell."
"She had all six of her kids — ages 5, 4, 2 (twins) and 10 months (also twins!) in her 10-seater van. To get the kids a quick snack, Curry parked in front of the Cobbler’s Café."
"Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they grew up typically eating dinner at a kitchen table, but a little less than half said they do so now when eating at home."
"If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator and then added a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground?"
"While American Jewish women face attacks on our freedom and rising anti-Semitism, abortion opponents are appropriating Jewish history in order to push an agenda that hurts women."