NASA launches Mars podcasts

A new podcast from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California gives listeners a behind the scenes look at the most recent mission to Mars.

The eight-episode series is titled “On a Mission” and will be airing throughout November, outlining the Mars InSight Lander mission, which launched in May 2018 and is expected to land on the planet in late November.

Host Leslie Mullen is a science journalist who interviews members of the InSight team during each brilliantly produced 20-to-30-minute episode.

The first two episodes outline the history of the mission and the difficulties the lander will face as it attempts to touch down at its designated landing site, Elysium Planitia.

Once it has done so, it will need to rest and remain undisturbed by dust or wind in order to operate. Its primary mission will be to collect data from beneath the surface, including the first measurements of seismic activity on Mars.

One of the key concerns for the InSight team is about dust the craft may face while landing. The engineers at NASA JPL added an additional protective coating to the heat shield to protect it as it enters the atmosphere at more than 12,000 kilometres per hour.

Using a mathematical approach known as Monte Carlo simulations, the team gambles with randomised landing parameters, such as mass, rocket efficiency, flight path angle, and location. In the five years leading up to launch, as many as one million scenarios were simulated.

Planet-wide dust storms are of one such condition for which the team has been planning. These forced the Opportunity Rover into remain in a sleep state since May of this year. The podcast reveals that each morning, the team at NASA JPL start the day by playing a song from their “Wake Up” playlist, which includes delights as diverse as Wham!, the Beatles and Iron Maiden. 

The podcasts can be accessed here.

Find out more about Mars InSight here.

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