NASA Previews InSight Mars Landing

[dramatic music] – Welcome to NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California,
I’m Veronica McGregor. We are just one day away
from our InSight spacecraft meeting the atmosphere of Mars to begin the event that we call entry, descent, and
landing, or EDL. It’s a nail biting,
six and a half minutes where numerous things have
to take place perfectly in order for us to go from
thousands of miles an hour to a gentle, safe landing speed. Our speakers today are
gonna describe everything that must go right
during those minutes. They’re also going to talk about how we’ll be getting
our communications back from InSight down to Earth
so we know the progress of the spacecraft, and we’re
gonna talk a little bit about the science that
will be the reward from this mission
getting to Mars. Now, before we get
to our speakers, I just want to tell
everybody right now to please bookmark
a couple websites so that you can come
back and join us tomorrow during the landing event. You can go to to get a list of every platform where we will be streaming
the commentary live. We will begin commentary
at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. That will give you many
ways that you can enjoy multiple streams
of full commentary, clean feeds, and even
a 360 degree broadcast from inside InSight
mission control, so you can feel
like you’re in there with the rest of the team. And also,,
that’s an even simpler URL to remember, all
of our programming is always broadcast
to that website. Now, following our speaker
presentations today, we are gonna take questions
from the audience here. We have media, and we also
have social media followers here today, thank you
so much for joining us. If you are calling
in on the phone line, please remember to hit star,
one, and that will put you in the queue for questions. If you are joining
us on social media, you can send us a question
by using hashtag askNASA, and we’ll be going
to those questions later in the broadcast. And for now, I’m
going to introduce our first speaker today,
it is Thomas Zurbuchen He is the NASA
Associate Administrator for the Science
Mission Directorate. Welcome.
[audience applauding] – Hey, thanks. What an exciting day. I mean, I almost can’t
wait, I’m really excited to go land this thing,
but as we do this, of course, I stand
back, and as the leader of NASA Science
Mission Directorate, I think of the risk
and reward that is part of every one of these missions. To go to space
always carries risks. We don’t go take that risk
because we’re risk junkies and jump off airplanes. Some of us do, but, [audience laughing] most of us don’t,
we take the risk because it takes that
risk to have that reward, the reward that has
opened our understanding of worlds near and
far, the reward that has transformed not only
how we think about nature, but has really
opened up the world in which we live and think in. And so, whenever we
look at that risk, kind of, Mars stands tall
in that risk distribution. And to talk about Mars, we recognize that we never
take Mars for granted. Mars is hard. And so, on the first
chart here are the landers and rovers that we’ve
landed here out of NASA. You see the ones, you
recognize many of them, and of course, they’re
all the landers that humanities, and
rovers, that humanity has ever landed
successfully on Mars. Each one of them with
the same kind of sweat and worry that I have right
now in my stomach area. And of course, the one
there at the bottom, we hope, of course, will
increase our likelihood, our batting average,
to you, Jeff, on Mars landers and rovers. Now, when I think about this, it’s important to look
at this in a context of all missions that we
see on the second chart. All missions, you don’t
really have to look at any one of those, but
you see all these names, that’s all the missions that
have ever been sent to Mars, orbiters, landers, and rovers, and these are the ones
that were successful. Less than half of the
words that were there at the beginning are now there, so we’re, of course, worried,
and what I ask myself, did we do everything that we
could to support the team, and having met the team
and meeting with the team, the answer to that is
yes, and we’re pulling for the team, right now. For me, the hardest thing
is to sit on my hands, because there’s nothing I can do to make the team more successful other than standing there
and hoping and praying that everything is
gonna be just fine because they’re doing exactly
what they’re supposed to do. And I’m just so excited
to be part of that team, and hopefully, as we go through these seven minutes of terror, kind of increasing
the likelihood of humanity to
actually land on Mars with this amazing vehicle
that is out there, ready to land and
that will, again, transform our knowledge
of this amazing planet that’s right next to us. And to introduce
us to this mission, I’m happy to welcome now,
Tom Hoffman on stage, a project manager of InSight. Tom, take it away.
[audience applauding] – Thank you so much, Thomas. So, as many people
have, for Thanksgiving, you have your family
around, and luckily, I was fortunate enough to have
my three grandsons around, Connor, Declan,
and Evan, and boy, when they get excited, they
run around like crazy men, raising their hands,
yelling, screaming, carrying on, and I
have to tell you, inside of me right now, I’m
just about that same way. [audience laughing] I’m gonna control
myself as well as I can, until we get a
first notification of successful landing,
but just to warn anybody who’s sitting near
me after that, I’m gonna unleash my inner
four year old on you, so be careful.
[audience laughing] So as Thomas said,
though, landing on Mars is never a foregone conclusion, and less than half of the times we’ve tried to
either get into orbit or land on Mars, we have
not been successful. So you might ask
yourself, why is that? We’ve tried a lot, why
is this not simple, easy thing that we
can do every day? So we go to the first graphic, I can give you a little
bit of explanation of that. So on the Earth, we
have a very large gravitational field, but
we have a thick atmosphere that’s very big, so we
can actually dissipate the energy for entry
vehicles pretty easily with that thick
atmosphere, and usually, can get a good soft landing,
usually in the ocean, for Apollo, at least. The Moon, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of
a gravitational pull, and it has not atmosphere, so that makes it a little
bit easier, as well, to land on the Moon using
propulsive technology. Mars is basically the
worst of both worlds. We have an atmosphere
that’s about 1% of the Earth’s
atmosphere, and yet, we have a gravitational
field that’s about 1/3 of the pull of Earth,
and so what that means is we have very little
energy in the atmosphere that we can dissipate as
we enter the atmosphere, we have very little
ability to slow down until we get to the surface, so it makes it very challenging for us to land on Mars, and
that’s one of the main reasons why it is very challenging. We’ve done everything we can, we’ve done everything
we can think of to make sure that we’re
gonna be successful tomorrow, but you just never know
what’s gonna happen. But let’s explain
a little bit about what is gonna happen tomorrow, but first, we launched in
May, fifth of this year, from the Vandenberg
Air Force Base, the very first
time we’ve launched inter-planetary mission
from California. Very exciting, not very visible, but still very exciting event. Since then, we’ve
been doing a series of checkouts of the engineering, the science instruments
to make sure that we’re fully ready
once we go through EDL and once we get to the
surface and start the science. Everything’s ready to
go, all those checkouts have gone very well, we’ve
also been doing things called trajectory correction
maneuvers, or TCMs. And what those are designed
to do is first get us pointed at Mars, the first
couple ones that we did pointed us directly at Mars. We weren’t pointed
there when we launched. After that, the last
couple have been designed to get us to a
very specific point in the upper atmosphere
that will get us to a very specific
point on the ground. So let’s run the
video, and we can see what we’ve been
doing since we, okay, since we landed, okay, so
here is our target area, right here, this is
where we wanna land, at Elysium Planitia, after our TCM number
five, we were right here. You can see what
the date is, here, I’m sorry, this
is after TCM four. You can see what
the date is here, and I’m not gonna,
don’t run it yet, but when it starts running, what you’ll see is this ellipse, this is our landing ellipse, it’s gonna start moving
around just a little bit. What that is is the
DSN is tracking us, we’re getting very
good information about where we’re gonna land, so it moves around
just a little bit as our knowledge improves. After we did the TCM,
on November 18th, you’ll see that we
suddenly leap up here, very close to where we
want to be with our target. What’s gonna happen is,
then it’s gonna start moving around a little bit more, again, as we’ve gotten
more tracking data, we know that we’re getting
closer and closer to target. So let’s go ahead and run that, and that’s what
you’re gonna see. So you can see it’s moving
around just a little bit, our knowledge is getting better, it’s not really the
spacecraft changing, it’s just our knowledge
getting better. So after TCM five,
we ended up here, which is not quite
exactly on the red X. We’re about 11 miles away. We moved 109 miles
with that TCM five, we’re still about 11 miles away, so just this morning we
had a decision meeting, whether we were gonna
perform our last trajectory correction
maneuver or not, and we decided at
6:00 a.m. that yes, indeed, we’re gonna do it. We want to avoid
the area up here. That’s not a great area to land, so we want to move
down to this target, so we’re gonna be
performing that a few hours from
now, and hopefully within a few hours after that, we’re gonna know exactly
where we’re landing again, so things should
be in good shape. So when we actually get there,
after completing the TCM, we will be looking
exactly like this. This is what our spacecraft
looks like today. We have the cruise stage
here, and the aeroshell is on this side, we’re gonna
be in this configuration until about seven minutes
before we enter the atmosphere. At that point, we’ll say
goodbye to the cruise stage, we’ll say a thank
you for getting us a nice ride to Mars,
you’re on your own now. This will go into that Mars
atmosphere and burn up, and then we will be left
with just the aeroshell, so this, inside
of this aeroshell is our lander that’s tucked
in there very safely, we have a heat
shield on this side. As we enter the atmosphere,
that heat shield is gonna dissipate about 90%
of the energy that we have as it enters the atmosphere,
eventually slowing us down to about 850 miles an
hour, at which point, we’ll pop a parachute,
that parachute will then slow us about 90%
of the remaining energy down, and then we will
get to the point where the lander takes
over, so let’s go ahead and run the video,
and we can show that a little clearer, so
there’s our cruise stage. Goodbye, cruise stage,
you’re on your own. The rest of the aeroshell
starts to enter the atmosphere, it heats up to about
3,000 degrees Fahrenheit in certain areas on
that heat shield. That’s gonna dissipate a
fair amount of the energy, getting us to the point
where we feel comfortable popping the parachute,
but we’re still doing that at a supersonic
speed, and so that is a very exciting
moment for us, to make sure that we
get that parachute out. As we descend further, we’ll
let go of that heat shield. You can now see the
lander inside of there. The legs will deploy, we’ll
start collecting radar data using an F-16 like
radar to figure out what our altitude and
our relative velocity is. We’ll free fall for
just a little bit, which is a absolutely
terrifying thought for me, but, I’ve been told
our descent thrusters will then start
firing perfectly well, slowing us down to about
five miles an hour, once we finally get to
the surface of Mars. So, within about six
and a half minutes, we’ve gone from
12,300 miles an hour, as we entered the atmosphere,
to just five miles an hour as we land safely on
the surface of Mars. And where we’re
gonna land is a place called Elysium Planitia,
which very roughly translated means heavenly
plain, and indeed, it is a very heavenly
plain, and it is very plain, but it is actually
perfect, it’s safe, it’s a great place,
not only to land, it’s a great place to do the
science that we wanna do. So when we first land, we’re
gonna get a picture back, hopefully right away,
it’s probably not gonna be a very good picture, so
don’t get your expectations up too high, and there’ll be
a little bit of the picture that’s actually
missing, the reason is, is we have a dust cover,
and that dust cover’s gonna be absorbing
a lot of the dust that gets kicked up
from the landing event, and then, with our
overflight of MarCO and MRO, we’re only gonna get
a part of that image. Eventually though, we’re
gonna get an image back that looks something like this. Not the most
exciting place to be, but, again, it’s
a very safe place, and in fact, I’m very hopeful that we have even less
rocks, it’s even more sandy, and even more, dare
I say boring, okay? But indeed, that’s
what I’m hoping for, but before we get there,
we have to go through our entry, descent, and
landing, and so we do that up in the mission support area, and I have a friend of mine up
in the mission support area, Julie Wertz Chen,
who is up there now. Hopefully she can come
on, Julie, are you there? – I’m here, Tom.
– Okay, great. – You’re in a very
historic place. Can you tell us a little
bit about where you are? – Sure, this is the Critical
Events Mission Support Area. It was originally
built in around 2000, in order for teams
to come together to watch critical events. We first used the room in
2001 for the orbit insertion for Mars Odyssey,
and we’ve used it to watch all critical
or major events for every outer planets mission that JPL has flown since then. You might very well
recognize this room from the MER landings,
Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity,
or from Deep Impact’s comet encounter, or from
the last successful landing on Mars, Curiosity, six
years ago, or of course, the very emotional Cassini
Grand Finale, just last year. This room has been the backdrop to numerous really
really exciting events in planetary
exploration history, and we’re really excited
to add to that list with InSight’s landing
on Mars tomorrow. – Wow, that’s great. Can you tell me a
little bit about what the people will
be doing in there, landing day tomorrow? – Yeah, so the very back row will have some NASA management
and some project management, so Tom, yourself
and Bruce and Thomas will all be in that back row. Up here in this row will be
more of the project people, so on the very far end of this
row will be the navigators. They’re the ones
who have told us how to get to exactly
where we are right now. Next to them along this
row will be a subset of the entry,
descent and landing systems engineering team. We’re the folks who
have really focused in on this phase of the mission, have really spent years
getting all the details of these couple of
minutes just right. And then, as you come up here, here, more of the people
who are gonna be focusing on communication during landing, so radio science people
will be right there. They are the ones who
are eavesdropping in on our signal from all the
way back here on earth, trying to tell us some very
basic state information, from all the way back here. The MarCO engineers,
the CubeSets, will be over there,
and they’ll, of course, be trying to relay our very
detailed InSight telemetry to us and then right in
the middle of everybody, right here, is Sandy Krasner, he’s someone to keep
an eye on tomorrow, ’cause he’s our EDL
communications engineer, and he’ll really be the one
who’s coordinating everything to try and get that data from
the lander up to the orbiters, back here to earth, and onto
these wonderful work stations. – Oh, that’s cool. Now, since it’s just you
and me talking right now. [audience laughing] Sh, can you maybe give
me a sneak preview of some of the data displays that you’re gonna be
looking at tomorrow? – Sure, just between
you and me, no problem. We’ll be looking at lots
of different things. I think you’re
looking at a snapshot of one of the telemetry pages
that we’ll be looking at. You can see, up in
the left hand side, we get short messages
from the spacecraft that tell us where in the
sequence we are, of events, you can also see, over
on the right hand side, that there’s a lot of data that just isn’t
even filled in yet, and that’s because we haven’t
started the EDL sequence yet, so all of that will
start filling in tomorrow when we start doing
this, and of course, we’ll be looking at
lots of other pages too. We’ll be looking
at accelerations and velocities and
thruster firings, and there’ll be all sorts
of good information. – Well, that’s cool,
and I know you have a really really cool
special job on landing day. Can you describe
that to everybody? – Sure, I’m extremely
honored to be sitting up in the front row with Devin
Kipp and Christine Szalai, and we’ll be watching
this telemetry real time, whatever we have, and
trying to interpret it in real time, and Christine
will be calling out events to let everybody know
what’s happening, so it should be fun.
– That’s great. I hope you guys have all
brushed up on spacecraft. – That’s right.
[audience chuckles] – All right, that’s fantastic. So as Julie mentioned, we
have a lot of different ways that we’re gonna be
getting information back from InSight during our entry,
descent, and landing phase. The first and primary source is Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter,
so it’s gonna be gathering all the data that
we see from InSight as it goes through the
entry, descent, and landing, but it’s gonna store that data and it’s not gonna
tell us what happened for about three hours,
which is a little bit of delayed gratification,
especially for me. I’m gonna be very nervous,
I wanna know right now. We have another source,
which is our UHF antenna that will be listened to
directly on the earth. We have two observatories,
the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, we also have
the Max Planck Observatory in Effelsberg, Germany. They’ll be listening
to see Doppler shifts, so we expect that
we will probably see the parachute
deployment, we might see heat shield separation,
and we’ll definitely know that we’ve landed
on the surface. Again, that’s not a
lot of information. We also have to wait about
five and a half hours to see that we finally got
our solar arrays deployed, which is a key
part of making sure that we’re safely
on the surface, ready to get our science back. We’re not gonna get that for
about five and a half hours from Odyssey, so all of
that is lots of hours of delayed gratification. We do get an X-band beep
from the spacecraft though, that tells us that
the spacecraft is arrived down on the surface, it says, it’s taken me
seven months to get here, you’ve put me through
seven minutes of terror, but nonetheless, I’m
safely on the surface, it’s my safe call
home, everything’s
looking good so far, but that still happens before
the solar arrays deploy. So, because of all that
delayed gratification, we decided that we’d bring
a couple of stalkers with us called the MarCO spacecraft,
and what those spacecraft do is they’ll be listening
to us real time, as we go through the entry,
descent, and landing, they’ll be looking
at our UHF signal, and immediately
turning it around and sending an X-band
signal down to the earth. So, if we run an animation, I can show you exactly
how that works. So you can see, in
the middle is InSight. On each side are the two
MarCOs, MarCO A and B, in the horizon, Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, is rising, so all of
those are listening to the spacecraft, getting
exactly the same data, but again, the MarCOs
should be sending us direct information back. They are a technology
demonstration, so it’s no guarantee
that they’re gonna
work on landing day. They’ve been working
great so far, so we expect that they will, but you just never know
what’s gonna happen. As the entry, descent,
and landing goes through, that information goes to
both MRO and the MarCOs. Hopefully we get information
from both of those, and Julie will be interpreting
whatever information we get, along with Sandy and
the rest of the people in the mission support
area, making sure that we get that
information out. But to tell you a little bit
more about how MarCO works, it’s a really cool
technology demonstration, I have Brian Clement, who’s
one of the systems engineers that worked on MarCO, so Brian? [audience applauding] – Nice set up.
– Thank you. [audience applauding] – Yeah, so I’ll be
here to tell you a little bit about MarCO. MarCO consists of
two spacecraft, it’s a technology
demonstration mission, as Tom mentioned,
and MarCO consists of two cubesats, and this
is a scale model of MarCO. One inch equals one inch here, so it’s a really compact
mission overall, very efficient. It’s got three primary
technology demonstration pieces that allow us to go
where no small spacecraft has gone before, that
is into deep space, inter-planetary space,
and those three pieces are a miniaturized radio
that sits inside MarCO here, it’s about the
size of a softball, that allows us to communicate from almost 100
million miles away. The second piece is
this beautiful HGA, or high gain antenna,
that sits up here. This is called
reflect array antenna, and it allows us
to focus that beam back towards Earth, from
this little feed right here. So this is how we are
going to talk to Earth on that X-band while we’re
listening to InSight’s entry, descent,
and landing data. Now, as I said,
this is a technology
demonstration mission. We’ve proven all of
these pieces up, so far, during our transit towards Mars. The last piece is the
cold gas propulsion unit. Now, you may have
heard about this. This uses fire extinguisher
propellant as its means of locomotion, and it allows us to navigate and
maneuver in deep space. As Tom was saying, you
have to go through TCMs, trajectory control maneuvers. This is how we do it on MarCO, with fire extinguisher
propellant, to allow us to move
slowly towards our goal throughout the mission. Now, we have an
animation that’ll show a little bit about how
the communication occurs, but the most
important piece here for tomorrow’s event is
the UHF antenna down here. So if we could roll
that animation, we’ll talk a little bit
about how that works, as InSight approaches
Mars, we’ll be then picking up communication
using that antenna at the bottom of MarCO. InSight will be
broadcasting a UHF signal, and then the MarCOs
will repeat that signal, but in the X-band,
looking at Earth very closely with that HGA
that we have on top there. This is is how we are
going to allow MarCO to relay data back
to Earth rapidly and understand what’s
gone on with EDL, if everything goes to go plan. Now, of course, the
two MarCO missions, being a technology
demonstration mission, we don’t need to
perform that relay for InSight to be
successful, however, we believe that this is a
really interesting technology overall, and we’ve really
shown something unique in deep space that will allow
us to further future missions in a compact and efficient way. And finally, I wanted
to show you a little bit about the cameras on MarCO. So we have a camera, right here, you may have seen pictures,
and we’ve been learning how to take pictures as
we’ve been going along, and when we originally
left on May 5th, a few days later, we
took a picture of Earth, you saw a pale blue
dot in that picture, and as we’ve been
approaching Mars, we’ve been taking
pictures as well. If we could put one of those up. What we have here is
the high gain antenna, which you see up here, and right down here in
this lower left quadrant, is Mars, on the approach. So we’re really looking
forward to getting in, closer and closer
and closer to Mars over the next 24
hours and performing the entry, descent, and
landing relay for InSight. And, so that’s
MarCO in a nutshell, a small, compact mission
that’s going to allow us to do some really neat things. But back to InSight, we have the principal
investigator here,
Bruce Banerdt, to describe some of the
science behind InSight. [audience applauding] – Okay, so you’ve
been hearing a lot about the risks involved
in landing tomorrow, and all the intricate
dance that the spacecraft has to go through in order to
to get down to the surface, and I’m very cognizant
of all that stuff. I’ve been living that design
for the last seven years, but what I’m here to
talk to you today about is the payoff, okay,
this is the benefit, this is what we’re
going to Mars for. So we’ve been doing the design, the construction of the
spacecraft, the operation, for about seven years,
we’ve been in space about, little less
than seven months. It’s gonna take us a little
less than seven minutes to get down to the
surface, and then, we’re gonna be down
on the surface, and that’s when the
mission actually starts. So as I’ve said,
everything up to now has just been a prologue,
it actually starts tomorrow. Feels like it’s a climax, but
it’s actually the beginning. And so tomorrow,
we’re gonna be down on the surface, in
Elysium Planitia, and for those of you who are
up on your Martian geology and geography, we’re gonna
be right about here, okay, on the surface of Mars. But, what we’re
gonna be looking at is not the area around here,
what we’re gonna be looking at is this, the deep
interior of Mars, looking at the
deep core of Mars, its mantle and its
thin crust up here that have all the rocks that
we actually have access to. That is the goal of
the InSight mission is to actually map
out the inside of Mars in three dimensions
so that we understand the inside of Mars
as well as we have come to understand
the surface of Mars. And by doing that,
we’re not only just sort of
exploring Mars itself, but we’re actually
going back in time, back four and a
half billion years, to the, sort of the origin
of the solar system. The structure of Mars, its
crust, mantle, and core, which keep on
swinging out of sight, this crust, mantle,
and core was set up in the first few
tens of millions of years after Mars was formed. Probably, maybe even
20 million years. And that’s out of four
and a half billion years, that’s just a little
tiny slice of time. The Earth was also formed
at about the same time, it formed a crust, mantle
and core, as Mars did, but after that, Earth
just kept on going. It says, hey, this
is fun, I’m going on, I’m gonna do plate tectonics, I’m gonna do mantle convection, I’m gonna stir everything up, and then you get four
and a half billion years and later go, oh, wait a second, all of that evidence
has been erased. And so anybody who comes
along and wants to know where we came from,
you’re in tough luck. Luckily, we can go to Mars and Mars decided to
rest on its laurels after it formed,
and so when we look at the crust of Mars,
that’s a snapshot into the past of what the crust of the Earth might
have looked like four and a half
billion years ago, before it got all busy. So, in order to
understand the formation of the Earth, the way
that the Earth evolved into a planet
which is habitable, which has oceans, which
has an atmosphere, which has a nice temperature, if you’re not in New
York right now at least, it’s a nice temperature, whereas other planets
did not go that way, and they’re the very details,
the small little details of that evolution,
is what we think makes a difference between
having a nice planet like the Earth, a place
where you can take a vacation and get a tan, or
a place like Venus, where you’re gonna burn
up in a matter of seconds, or Mars, where you’d
probably freeze to death and wouldn’t be able
to breathe very well. Those details are
pretty important, in terms of living, but
they’re very small details in terms of the way
the planet evolved. And we’re trying to
get a good enough, precise enough measurement
of the conditions of early Mars that we
can refine our models and understand how those details send us down different paths. Okay, so how are
we gonna do that? We’re gonna do that
with a couple of
geophysical techniques, that’s using physics to
study geological processes, and the first one, and
the most important one, is the seismology. Seismology is the
study of earthquakes, or in our case, Marsquakes,
and it’s not just studying the quakes themselves,
but we’re using the waves generated
by those quakes, the vibrational waves, which
pass through the planet, in order to probe deep
down into the planet. When we look at things
with our eyeballs, we’re using light waves,
which bounce off of things, they travel through
the atmosphere, they travel through
glass, they get bent, they get reflected, and our eyes kinda puts together
all that information to just give us a three
dimensional knowledge of the world around us. Okay, so when we turn
our eyes downwards to look at the
core of the planet, doesn’t work so well,
’cause light waves don’t go through
rocks, but the waves that do go through
rocks are seismic waves, and so, on Mars, when
there’s a Marsquake, where the crust moves suddenly, starts vibrations moving
through the planet, it’s like a flash bulb going
off in the seismic world, and our seismometer
is our eyes on Mars, which take those waves and
let us turn those waves into a 3-D picture of
the inside of Mars. And so, let’s run the
first animation here. This is where a Marsquake
has occurred on Mars. These are surface waves,
traveling across the surface as they go past the seismometer, here’s the seismic, the
seismogram that’s generated. The nice thing about
Mars is it’s small enough that those surface waves
keep going around the Mars, as they go to the other
side, they pass each other at what we call the antipode, the opposite side of the planet, and they keep on
coming back around. As they come back around, they
pass the spacecraft again. The seismometer picks
up the seismic waves that have gone around,
and, they pick up the ones going around
the other way as well. And so, you may have
heard that it takes three seismometers to
locate an earthquake and do seismology, well, we
only have one seismometer, but we’re using
extra information. Here, we have the P wave, the
S wave and the surface wave, but we have these extra
two surface wave events that go around the planet because Mars is small,
it doesn’t absorb the waves as quickly
as the Earth does, and we can use this
extra information to actually locate how far
away that Marsquake was from our spacecraft, we
can do some other analysis to figure out which way
those waves are coming from, figure out where
that Marsquake is, and with that information,
we can use the information from the velocities of the waves to probe inside the
planet and figure out what it’s made out of, and
where the boundaries are. So, in order to do that,
we use an instrument called a seismometer,
and I have a couple of seismometers here, well,
I have one seismometer and one fake seismometer. This is a Streckeisen STS-2, it’s a so-called
portable seismometer, it’s used quite
a bit in geology. It’s very similar
in size to this, which is a 3-D printed model
of our InSight seismometer. On the Earth, this is
a portable seismometer, which means we
ship it in a crate that’s about this
big, full of foam so that it doesn’t get broken. When we take it
out in the field, we don’t just set it
down on the ground, we usually dig a hole,
put down a concrete slab, put insulation around
it, and everything so that the temperature’s
nice and uniform, and so then, we can
use this seismometer to do the kind of seismology
that I’m talking about on Mars. On Mars, we have this guy. This is the heart of
our whole mission. Inside this are three
seismic sensors, and it has to do the same
kinds of things this does, but we don’t have someone
there to dig a deep hole, put insulation
around and so forth. And these seismometers
are so sensitive, that they’re picking up
vibrations from these quakes. These are not the
kinds of vibrations that knock your house down,
these are very tiny vibrations that have traveled
through the entire planet, and the sensitivity
in these seismometers is such that they
can see vibrations with an amplitude of
about the size of an atom, maybe a fraction
of an atom, and so, you can imagine that,
if there’s a little bit of wind blowing, if there’s, that the temperature goes
up and down a little bit, things expand and contract,
all of those things are gonna go and show
up in our signal, and so, if I can have
the next picture, this is what we do in
order to make that work. Okay, so right here,
this yellow part in the very center, is that,
what we called our sphere. It’s not really a sphere,
but it’s close enough. And you can see some
of the stuff inside it. What we’ve done
is, first of all, we’ve evacuated that sphere. It’s a vacuum, a
hard vacuum inside, that helps to insulate it. Then, we put, sort of, another
vacuum bottle around it. This is our thermal enclosure,
it has a hollow inside. This protects it from the
temperature variations on Mars, which can be
as much as 100 degrees as we go from day to night, and finally, we put
this dome over the top, we call it our wind
and thermal shield. That protects it from the wind, and protects it a little bit
more from the temperature. It’s actually kind of
cool, it has a hard dome, and then it has
kind of an accordion thermal blanket
down here, and then, we actually have chain
mail at the bottom, that actually can conform itself to the irregular
ground, keep the wind from going underneath it. And so, by putting all
of these different layers of insulation between
our seismic sensors and the environment,
we actually have what we call a
thermal time constant of about seven and a
half or eight hours it takes for a thermal
variation to go from the outside to the inside, and that keeps it going. Okay, so this is what
we’re gonna do on Mars. I think that’s about
all I have to say, I think we can wrap it up
and go back to Veronica. – All right, thank you. [audience applauding] We’re going to invite,
stay where you are. We’re gonna invite all
the speakers to come back on stage and we’re going
to open it up to questions. We’re gonna take questions
from here in the auditorium, we’ll also be going to
questions on the phone line. If you’re on the phone
line, please hit star, one, to get into the queue,
so we know you’re there, waiting with a question. We’re also gonna take
questions from social media, online, using the
hashtag askNASA. All right, let’s start
here in the auditorium. I’m gonna start on this
side, with Emily Lakdawalla. – Emily Lakdawalla, with
The Planetary Society. I have a couple of
MarCO questions. I’m wondering if you
can give some details on flyby distances for Mars, are they basically on the course that you planned for them,
what will the range be to InSight during landing? And you showed us
a cool picture, are you planning to take any
more as you approach Mars? – You may have to remind me of some of those questions
as we go through. So, first of all, the flyby
will be about 2,500 miles above the surface of Mars. The distance to InSight,
directly, as it lands, will be approximately
3,000 to 3,500, and then, I think your other
question was, pictures, yes. Yes, we are taking
more pictures, we’ll see how we do with those, and the MarCO used a very
off the shelf camera, if you will, and so
we’re learning as we go with those pictures, so
every time we take one is a little bit
more information. We’ve been happy so
far, but we’ll see how we do as we get closer. – All right, we’re gonna
go one in front here, to Steve Futterman, go ahead. – Steve Futterman,
from CBS News. For Tom, I want to sort of get to your psychological
makeup right now. What is your mood right now? Are you nervous,
excited, a bit of both, and what is it going to be like during these seven
minutes of terror? – That’s a great question. I am completely excited
and completely nervous, all at the same time,
because everything that we’ve done today
makes us feel comfortable and confident we’re
gonna land on Mars, but, everything has to go perfectly, and Mars could always
throw us a curve ball, to use the baseball analogy that may decrease
our batting average. But, I think, we’ve been
practicing very well, I’m confident, but
very trepidatious. I have not been
sleeping that great. Might be because I have
two and four year old kids running around the
house all the time, but nonetheless, I’m
gonna be very excited once we get that
first signal back that shows that we
successfully landed on Mars. I am totally gonna unleash my inner four year
old at that point. [audience laughing] – Okay, I’m gonna go to
the phone lines next. We have AP on the phone, please
go ahead with your question. – [Operator] Marcia,
your line is open. – [Marcia] Yes, hi, we’ve
heard that Dr. Zurbuchen’s got some stomach stuff
going on from nerves, and we’ve got the
inner four year old going to be unleashed
by Tom Hoffman. Dr. Banerdt, I’d like to
get a look into your mind and stomach right now, I mean, how are you feeling and
how do you anticipate you’re gonna be dealing
with the critical times tomorrow before touchdown? – Well, I have to admit, I’m
getting a little nervous. I wasn’t sure whether, actually, I’m probably more nervous
about this press briefing than I am about the landing. [audience laughing] But it’ll get there,
it’ll get there. I’ve been really, along with Tom and a lot of other people,
been living this mission for about six years,
and we’ve been thinking of everything that
could possibly go wrong, which is something that
gives you pause, sometimes, ’cause there’s a lot of
things that could go wrong, but every time you think of
something that could go wrong, you figure out how
to mitigate it, how to either make it less
likely or how to fix it, and so, we’ve fixed an
incredible number of things over the last six
years, and I’m actually really confident personally that we’re gonna
land safely tomorrow. Doesn’t mean I’m not
nervous, but we’ll see when they call safe touchdown,
we’ll see just how nervous I actually was, I’ll find out
with the rest of you, I think. [audience chuckling] – [Veronica] Hey Bruce, I
know you’ve been working for the last six years,
really hard on this mission, but you should tell them how
long you’ve been dreaming of this mission.
– Oh, well. I was actually
here at JPL in 1976 when Viking landed on Mars, I was a geophysical
graduate student, and was really disappointed
when the seismometers on Viking didn’t work out,
and I thought back then that boy, we really need
to send a seismometer back to Mars, and then
I went back to my, whatever it was
I was working on, and then about 10 years
later, in the late 80s, I started working with
some engineers at JPL on seismometers and kinda
got the mission bug, I kinda caught the mission bug, and got more or less,
some people say obsessed about sending a mission to Mars. So I’ve really been
working pretty steadily for 25 to 30 years on this,
and had about six or eight unsuccessful proposals
before this one, but, which, each one is
a learning experience, and so, I’d say I’m
a patient person. [all laughing] As well as persistent, but
yeah, it’s been a long time. This is really a long time
dream come true for me. – Okay, we’re gonna go
to one more question on the phone line,
Irish TV, Leo Enright, go ahead please. – [Leo] Thanks very
much, Veronica, and there are a lots
of four year olds with good Celtic names
watching this as well. And my question
has to do, really, with the European involvement. And I just wondered,
I cannot remember, and I, as Veronica
knows, I’ve covered this for a long time,
I cannot remember any interplanetary mission
that has this level of international cooperation. I just wondered, am
I right about that, is this unique in
modern history, or have I missed something? – So, why don’t I
talk about this? It’s Thomas Zurbuchen. So, close to 2/3 of our missions do have international
involvement. What’s unique about
this one, if you take at the whole payload,
which of course, is the why of a mission, right, it’s there, of course,
the piece in front of you, I met the guy in
France, I remember, I was introduced
to him by the CEO of the company, and
says, this is the guy. I still remember him,
tattoos down his arm, he said, “He has the magic
touch, he’s the only one “who really knows
how to put these “super sensitive sensors
into the sphere.” And so I met him, right,
I’m grateful to him, right, that together
with his colleagues there at Sodern and
elsewhere, and CNES, of course, the other instrument that you didn’t talk much about, but you can, of course,
is from Germany. Of course, the electronics
is from Switzerland, over here, it’s
here from Germany, there’s also Polish
contributions as well as others,
and so, kind of, just as a fraction of
payload, it is unique. It is unique, in
terms of just how much is being done
elsewhere, of course, we believe in United
States that leadership and collaboration are
not contradicting values. We believe that the best
is served for humanity if we actually have the
best seismology instrument, the best thermal probe,
and in this case, they’re built elsewhere, and
so that’s why we’re doing that. Bruce worked in on this. – That’s pretty much, that
pretty much covers it. I mean, all these instruments, for example, the seismometers, being supplied by the
French space agency, but there have been
substantial contributions from the United
Kingdom, from Germany, from Switzerland, and
from the United States. We had, actually, a
pretty big part of that, and so, it’s really
a collaboration, and the collaboration really
doesn’t have any respect for boundaries, we just
get the best people, the best technology,
wherever we can find it. – Okay, we’re gonna take
it back here in the room, with a question here
on the end, go ahead. – [Jeff] Jeff Foust,
Space News, for Tom. Can you give us a
little more details on this final TCM in terms
of the timing and duration, and are you aiming
to get right back onto that X in the center,
or some offset from it? – Yeah, so we’re hoping
that this afternoon we do just a very small burn,
it’s only a few centimeters per second, which
is a relatively, it’s almost a breath of
air out of your mouth. We hope that we’re gonna
move about 11 miles from where we are
today to that red X. We’re a little bit
to the northwest. If we go further
northwest than that, than where we’re
currently showing, we get into a region that
we’re not as comfortable landing in, which
is the reason we had a very exciting
and it wasn’t clear what the answer was gonna
be in our 6:00 a.m. meeting this morning, we listened
to all the different inputs, and the final decision
was to go ahead and do the TCM,
let’s move ourselves back to that red
X and be exactly where we really wanna land,
for both safety standpoint, as well as making sure that
we have the right location for our science instruments. – Okay, we have a question in
the back row, there you go. – Hi, Fred Bastien, Fred
Bastien YouTube channel. I have a question
about the insights we can get from InSight
about the science over there. What’s the main
hypothesis, but mostly, what’s the craziest
thing we could learn, what is the most
mind blowing thing we could learn about
Mars, true insight? – Wow, I mean, I
think my imagination’s really always been
challenged by Mars, because we keep on
running into things that are crazier
than I ever imagined. I think, you know,
we’ve thought a lot about how many quakes
there might be on Mars, or how active Mars could be. I think probably
what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna find out
that the whole question of sort of seismicity,
which is the distribution and rate of seismicity on Mars is gonna tell us some things that we had absolutely no
idea were going on in Mars. I mean, seismology
is one of the ways that we really confirmed
plate tectonics on the Earth, looking at where all
the earthquakes bunch, along plate boundaries,
and allowed us to see where the plate boundaries were. On Mars, when we start
getting these Mars plates, they’re gonna be telling
us where there’s stuff going on on Mars, where the
forces are concentrating, and I think that’s
gonna tell us something that was probably completely
absent from our models, but, then again, now
that I’ve thought of it, it’s probably not true, so. [audience laughing] – All right, again in
the back row there. – [Ivan] Hi there,
it’s Ivan Semeniuk with the Globe and
Mail, just a short one, about that safe call home. Can you just remind us
precisely when you’re expecting that to arrive, how you’ll know, how we’ll know
that you’ve got it, and what, how you would
spring into action, or what scenarios
you might pursue if you don’t get it right away. – Yeah, so about seven
minutes after we land, we’re expecting to
get an X-band beep. If we don’t get
that X-band beep, all is not lost, that just means that we’re in a
slightly different mode. We would be in something
called safe mode, which by its name, you
can figure out it’s safe. In that mode, the only thing
that we would really lose is that first image,
everything else is autonomously done
by the spacecraft, so we’ll get the
solar arrays deployed, making sure that we’re
thermally and energy safe, and then we will start talking
with the orbiting assets, Odyssey, Mars
Reconnaissance Orbital, we’ll start getting
that data up to them. So it really, seven minutes
means everything’s great, if we get it a
little bit earlier or a little bit after that,
it still means everything’s in pretty good shape,
we just not gonna get a picture back for awhile. – [Ivan] Thanks. – Okay, I’m gonna
go here to Ian. There we go. – Hi, Ian O’Neill with
Scientific American and I had a question, in
Mars’ ancient past, it was hit by a massive impact. How will InSight
expose the interior of Mars to explain what
actually may have hit it, and if it did happen, or
perhaps some other explanation? – Okay, I assume you’re talking about the origin of
the dichotomy boundary in the northern plains,
which are a different level and different character
than the southern plains, and one thing InSight
will be able to do is, we think, if we
have a reasonable number of Marsquakes that are
distributed around the planet, we’ll be able to look at
waves that are coming at us from the north, through
the northern plains, which are the putative
location of this giant impact, and waves that are
coming from the south, and use the crustal thickness
that we can determine from both of those
in order to see what the difference
in the thickness of the crust is between
the north and the south, and that will feed
into evaluation of various different models
of how the northern plains formed, and so I
think that’s probably our best bet for
helping to constrain that particular problem.
– Thank you. – Okay, next question, go ahead. – [Fig] Fig O’Reilly
with Girls Who Code. My question is, how
long do you expect it will take to generate
enough usable data to produce insights
about Mars’s interior? – Okay, so this is, InSight is, once we get to the surface, InSight is a slow
motion mission, okay? We take our time getting
our instruments down, it’ll probably
take at least two, probably more like three months, maybe even longer to get
our instruments down. It’s gonna take us a month or
so to get ’em all calibrated, and in tune to
Mars’s conditions, and then we’ll start
collecting our data. We’ll start collecting
the data at the beginning, but then we’ll start collecting
the best, the cleanest data. I would say, probably it’s
gonna be at least six months before we even get a glimmer
of what we’re looking for, and a lot of the
really basic questions, I think, it’s gonna take close
to the full two year mission. We might be getting
stuff out before that, but it really depends on how
benevolent Mars is feeling. How many Marsquakes
it throws at us. The more Marsquakes the better, we just love that shakin’,
[audience laughing] the more shaking it does, the
better we can see the inside. Let those flash bulbs
keep on going off. If it’s nice and a good clip, we’ll, maybe even
earlier than that, but with the rate
that we’re expecting, we’ll probably be getting some
of those really basic results out, probably not much
earlier than two years in. A lot of other cool
stuff’ll happen, we’ll get weather
reports every day, we’ll be measuring
the heat flow, we’ll be measuring the wobble, so there will certainly be a
stream of results coming out, but in terms of the
really deep questions, I think, you know, hold
on to your hat for awhile. – Okay, we only have time
for a couple more questions. I’m gonna go to social
media, see if we’ve got any burning questions
coming in from online. – [Stephanie] So many questions, a very lively YouTube chat, and everybody out there
on Twitter using askNASA, thank you so much, we will
be answering more online after the broadcast is over. So, we talked about
inner four year olds, we have a real four year old, Ellie, four, and Jackson, eight, together wanna know how
the information we learn from NASA InSight will shape
future missions to Mars. – [Woman] Nice question. – Yeah, I think there’s a
couple parts of that question, that there’s certainly
the science aspect, I can talk to the
engineering aspect. One of the things that we
do with every EDL mission, entry, descent, and landing, is we gather a
lot of information that we’re getting
from the spacecraft as it goes through that process. Every single time we do that, we learn something a
little bit different, we change what we’re doing, we change the parameters
the next time, maybe change a little bit
of the design of that, so certainly, we’re gonna
learn a lot from that activity, and we’ll feed that forward
to the future missions. – Yeah, and of course, the
way we think about the future mission is March
2020, is, even though everything this
weekend, tomorrow, is focused on InSight,
there’s other people here on this campus
that are worrying about what’s going to happen in 2020 when we’re going
back with a rover just as big as Curiosity,
and doing, really, the first leg of
a sample return, and it’s that very information that you just talked about,
information that teaches us how to do safely these
entry, descent and landing, as well as other things
about the atmosphere and the environment
that will help us with that mission
and many to come. – All right, and
Bruce, couple questions from Bill Tandy over on Twitter. So, will the seismometer
collect science as the heat flow probe
is hammering into Mars, and what happens if
that probe encounters a rock or ice as it descends? – We’re definitely gonna be
listening to the vibrations that are gonna be put out by that hammer of
our heat flow probe. It’s kind of a bonus
experiment for us. It really is not
connected to our main goal of looking at the deep interior. The waves from that hammer
will probably penetrate maybe 40 or 50 or possibly
100 feet down into the soil, so it will give us information, possibly about
layering in the soil and the rocks right
underneath our lander, and again, this is not something
that we planned originally, but it’s really kind of
taken the imagination of the team, and a lot of
people have been working on that and trying to figure out how to make that
particular experiment work, because it’s just so
cool, it’s just so fun. So, as far as whether
it encounters a rock, our mole is a pretty
muscular mole. It can get around,
actually, smaller rocks. Anything smaller than
about two inches or so, it’ll just push it aside. If it gets to a larger
rock, it depends on the slope of the face. If it’s a slanted face,
the mole will actually work itself sideways
and go around the rock, but if it hits a
flat, large rock, that’s just as far as it can go. And we’ve looked
at the statistics of how many rocks we
expect under the surface. That’s gone into, actually,
our choice of landing area, of looking for a place with
few rocks on the surface that we could extrapolate to
few rocks under the surface, and so we feel like we
have, from our calculations, a high probability of
success, of getting down at least 10 feet,
which is deep enough to do our measurements
easily, and probably to the full 16 feet
that we’re shooting for. – [Stephanie] Veronica,
do we have time for one more question? – No.
– Agh. – [Veronica] We’re using
up time quickly here. – Find us online.
– Exactly. Not only will social
media, we’ll continue to answer your questions online, but there’s also
another show coming up later on today at 1:00 p.m.
Pacific, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It is for all of our social
media attendees today, it’s another opportunity
for a lot of great Q and A with the mission team members, so if you don’t hear
your question now, you might hear it in that show. I’ve got one more,
Leo Enright, Irish TV, you’ve got a followup
question on the phone line, and go ahead. – [Leo] Oh, thank you very
much indeed, Veronica. Appreciate it, I
was just wondering about this TCM tonight,
it’s I think about midnight our time here in
Europe, how important will the New Norcia
ESA tracking station in Western Australia be? I know it’s scheduled
to be watching out, but has it suddenly
gained an importance that it didn’t have, now
that you have this burn? – Well, we always
appreciate the support that we’ve been getting from it, but we’re actually not going
to be using that for anything related to the trajectory
correction maneuver coming up. We don’t have really
time to do much tracking after that trajectory correction
maneuver this afternoon, and so, we’re gonna do it,
and we’re gonna be targeted where we wanna go, and
that’s gonna be kinda it. – Okay, for those
of you in the room, you’ll have an
opportunity to come up and ask them some questions
when we’re off the air. I do wanna wrap the
broadcast at this time, so I wanna thank all the
speakers for being here today. Great information.
[audience applauding] Okay, and for all
of you watching, a reminder that
we land tomorrow. Our commentary begins at
2:00 a.m. Pacific Time, I’m sorry, let me
correct that, 11:00 a.m. [audience laughing] Commentary begins at
11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time,
landing takes place about an hour into
the show there, maybe 50 minutes, so tune in. There’s multiple ways to watch. You can go to, you can see the broadcast there. You can also check out
our InSight Toolkit, because it gives
you multiple options for watching the live stream. That is at You’ll learn where we will
be feeding to YouTube, to Facebook, also, our
live 360 degree feed from inside mission control. There’s also a tab on that site that says Watch In Person. Click there if
you wanna find out where there is an in
person viewing event that you can attend. There are events taking
place from Los Angeles to New York, even in
Times Square tomorrow, if you happen to
be out in the cold, you can watch from
multiple locations. We will be back, as I
mentioned, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time today, with
the NASA Social Show, and again, commentary
tomorrow, 11:00 a.m. Pacific, 2:00 p.m. Eastern
Time, thank you all for joining us today,
and go InSight! [audience applauding]

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