Nov
19
One Day from Mars Landing: InSight Team Q&A (NASA Social)


– Although we’ve done it
before, landing on Mars is hard, and this mission
is no different. The process to get from the
top of the atmosphere of Mars to the surface, we call entry,
descent, and landing, or EDL. It takes thousands
of steps to go from the top of the
atmosphere to the surface, and each one of them
has to work perfectly to be a successful mission. The process starts
well above the top of the atmosphere of Mars. The cruise stage faces the sun. It also has its radio
antenna which faces Earth. But now, we don’t need the
cruise stage, its job is done. The next step, just seven
minutes before arriving to the top of the
Mars atmosphere, is to separate the cruise stage. Before you hit the top of
the atmosphere, though, the space capsule
has to orient itself so that the heat shield is
precisely facing the atmosphere. Now the fun begins. The vehicle is moving at
nearly 13,000 miles an hour, but it’s hitting the
top of the atmosphere at a very shallow
angle, 12 degrees. Any steeper, the
vehicle will hit the thicker part
of the atmosphere and it will melt and burn up. Any shallower, the vehicle will bounce off the
atmosphere of Mars. At the very top
of the atmosphere, it’s about 70 miles above
the surface of Mars, and the air is starting to get thicker and thicker and thicker. As it does that, the
temperature on the heat shield gets well over 1,000
degrees centigrade, enough to melt steel. Over the next two minutes, the vehicle decelerates at
a backbreaking 12 Earth G’s, from 13,000 miles an hour to
about 1,000 miles an hour. At about 10 miles above
the surface of Mars, a supersonic
parachute is launched out of the back of the vehicle. 15 seconds after the
parachute inflates, it’s time to get rid
of the heat shield. Six pyrotechnic devices
fire simultaneously, allowing the heat shield to fall and tumble away
from the vehicle, exposing the lander to
the surface of Mars. 10 seconds after the
heat shield is dropped, three pyrotechnically
deployed legs are released and
locked for landing. About a minute later, the
landing radar is turned on sending pulses toward
the surface of Mars as the vehicle starts
to try to measure how high it is above the
surface and how fast it’s going. At about a mile above
the surface of Mars, the lander falls away
from the back shell and lights its engines. And very quickly, the vehicle must
rotate out of the way so that the parachute
and the back shell doesn’t come down to hit it. The last thing
that has to happen is that on the
moment of contact, the engines have to
shut down immediately. If they don’t, the
vehicle will tip over. So if all the steps of
entry, descent, and landing happen perfectly and we are
safely on the surface of Mars, we’ll be ready to do some
exciting new science. – Hello, and welcome to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, California. In fewer than 24
hours from right now, we will be expecting
signals from Mars as NASA’s InSight mission
touches down on the red planet. It’s our first Mars
landing since 2012, and the excitement
is running high. My name is Stephanie L. Smith, I’m with the social
media team here at JPL, and with one day left to go, we are gonna take
a little time out. We are gonna get up
close and personal with some of the
scientists and engineers behind this mission. We’re gonna ask
them some questions. We’re joined today by
our NASA social group. We’ve got 30 digital
creators here in the house at Von Karman auditorium, selected from over
700 applications from
around the world. They’re here to ask questions and then share their experiences with friends and
followers online. We’ll be taking questions
here in the house. We will also be taking questions
online from social media, just tag those
questions askNASA. All right, so, to start us
off with some perspective, please welcome all the
way from NASA Headquarters in Washington DC,
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen. He’s the Associate
Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, and he’s gonna tell
us how InSight fits into NASA’s larger plans
of planetary exploration, and why it’s more than
just a Mars mission. Dr. Z?
– Hey, thanks. [audience applauding] The major reason I wanted
to quickly talk to you is just to thank
you, first of all. And I wanna thank you
just because I believe that one of the most
important parts of science missions is
actually to talk about them. I believe that science,
just like in my life, is something that
can be life-changing. It’s not just because it
makes us safer on Earth, because we learn more
about our environment, it can also create careers. Many of the people
you’re gonna talk to have careers that
relate to science. My career started with
that mission over there, with the Voyager mission, and I remember when I
was eight years old, I got that book at Christmas, and you know, without
any engineers or
scientists around me, focused on Voyager, and I read it, and of course for me,
that was like a dream, somebody else’s dream, but I can tell you right now, and next chart,
this is mine, right? So not only is Voyager still
there, Voyager 1 and 2, by the way, Voyager just
about to make history again. Not going to tease that away,
it’s all about InSight today, but the point is, we have
over a hundred missions that are looking at the Earth and looking at many
other parts of the world, big and close and far, and for us, what’s really
important to me is that we tell those stories, not just the stories about
science and exploration, but the deeply human stories about doing things that
are impossible first, the deeply human stories
that have to do with taking something
that sounds crazy and turning it into to reality. That’s what we do each
and every day at NASA. That’s why we’re there, is to break through the
boundaries of ignorance, to really go beyond what we
can do each and every day, and we do so by building teams. It’s not because of individuals, it’s by building teams that
work and trust each other, teams who have different people, diverse viewpoints that
come together, and do this. So, I just wanted to thank you for carrying that message
to your audiences, because the audiences that listen to you on your
social media accounts, hopefully, will be the
people that will be there 10 years from now,
five years from now, 20 years from now, making
the next dreams a reality. So, I really don’t
want to add more to it, and I really want to
turn it over to Q & A. – So, yeah, I think
we’ve got time for one question in this block, and like I said, we are taking
askNASA questions online. Let’s go to Jason. – Sure, Thomas. So, Twitter user NASAWatch
has a question for you here, saying that NASA has two
CubeSat-base spacecraft as a tech demo during InSight. Are you looking at so-called
Swarm mission concepts where you only send groups, i.e. many low-cost
CubeSats to a world so that they can do
a brief but broad base simultaneous
reconnaissance? – I have a really good
question, and the answer is yes. We’re learning how to do
these small satellites in ways that are beyond
their comfort zone. You know, MarCOs, now you can
talk to some of the people who know a lot about the MarCOs, they’re well beyond the comfort
zone of smallsat developers. We’re extending the range
of these spacecraft, their utility beyond that. But one of the things that
we’re really interested in is in the context of Earth
observations, for example. If we fly many spacecraft near
or in the Earth environment, we can have if you want
an eye on a given spot at any one time in a way that we could otherwise not afford. So constellations of
such small missions, perhaps missions are
even a little bit bigger than these CubeSats that
we could launch together with novel launch
vehicles or vehicles that we already have
now are enabling new ways of looking
at the Earth, perhaps at the Moon and
other planetary bodies. So yes is the answer.
We want to do that. – Alright, so Dr. Z is
very active on social media and is available to
answer some more questions after the briefing is over. You can find him at @dr_thomasz. With that, let’s give it up. – Thanks. [applause] – Okay so also, check out his Science in Seconds
series on Twitter. You will learn a lot in a
very short amount of time. Speaking of science, that
is where all missions start. Science tells us the
kind of instruments, the kind of spacecraft
that we need to send to answer big questions. So I wanna bring out our
starting lineup: our scientists. Alright so please give
a warm welcome to those who are gonna tell us
more about InSight, how it will get to
the heart of Mars with its seismometer,
its heat flow probe, and its radio
science instruments. Let’s bring them on out. Sue Smrekar, InSight deputy principal investigator
here at JPL. Philippe Laudet, the Seis
project manager from KNS. Tilman Spohn, the HP cubed
principal investigator all the way from Germany, DLR. And batting clean up, Jim Green. NASA’s chief scientist
from Washington DC. [applause] Alright so, our panelists
are gonna tell you a little bit about themselves, what those fancy titles
mean on a day to day basis, and just enough so
that you’ll know what kind of questions
you can ask them, and we will spend most
of this time doing Q&A. So Sue, I’ll kick
it over to you. – Hey. Well good afternoon,
I’m super happy to be here talking to you today. As you heard, my title is the
deputy principal investigator and the principal investigator
is the person who is responsible for the
science on the mission and the integrity, trying
to get the most possible science we can out of
this mission and so I’ve been helping Bruce
Banerdt to do that for the last eight years and
I’ve actually been here at JPL for 26 years and I
have had the thrill of trying to answer this question: what makes Earth unique? And I’ve gone about
that by studying different disciplines and
I really like to do science at the intersection of different
scientific disciplines. So you see this picture
of me in the background, I got the fun of going and
doing field work in Hawaii. And so we learned about
how flows actually occur in the surface, and trying
to see the characteristics so we might see those
flows on Mars as well. And I like to study
mathematically models of how hot stuff comes up out
of the interior planets to intersect and form
volcanism at the surface. So I like to work with
geophysics, geology, and I also like to study
other planets because they tell us about
our own planet. So I’ve had the thrill
of being able to merge those things together and
I just wanna say you know, denial is a technique
that I have used to manage a lot of stress and today
I’m just kind of feeling overwhelmed with the thrill
of this momentous occasion of the decades of
work for some of us, the hundreds of us who have
been involved in this project, but beyond just our
project, 50-ish years ago, the Apollo astronauts put
a seismometer on the Moon. They put heat flow
probes on the Moon. So all that technology
was developed and our real appreciation of the value
of this kind of science for studying other planets
and just all the Mars missions that have come before us, all the technology
that’s been developed. Even studying the Earth,
we’ve learned about plate tectonics about 50 years ago. So I just feel like it’s just
this incredible culmination of all these people’s efforts to bring us to this point
today so I’m just feeling very overwhelmed and
thrilled to be here and talk to you about it. So to you Philippe. – Okay. Good
afternoon everybody. Thank you very much to be here. So my name is Philippe Laudet. I have been working for the
National Space French Agency, so sorry for my
horrible French accent. And I apologize in advance
if I don’t understand well your questions. It’s the reason why. I have been working
on that project. I am the project manager
of the seismometer. So seismometer, seis is the
small thing that you can see in front on the
ground on Mars ground, in front of the InSight lander. So that seismometer was
very, very hard to develop but we succeeded in that
and we are very humbled they are stick for that. My job during this seven
years as mainly to be to face the challenges
we had in two major ways. The first one was
technical challenges. We were more than 100
engineers in the whole world. A hundred engineers and we
had to face very difficult things because as you know
this seismometer is something that we can do but
also as a paradox it’s also the most robust
that we were obliged to do because you need to
survive to launch, to cruise phase, and
to landing on Mars. This is not obvious at all. So my job was mainly
to help the engineer to find solutions for
the technical issues, for the technical challenges, but also to discuss, to prove
that it was the right way and so on, to give them
the appropriate money to make that work and so on. And the second way I had to
work for help in the project was to coordinate all the extras because you know this
instrument is a result of an international consortium. France is leading that
consortium but we had British people who gave us
some subsystems, high frequency sensors. German people gave us
the leveling system to make it horizontal. JPL gave us the evacuated
container on the tether, for example, and Switzerland
made the integration of all the electronic
boards in the electronic box which will stay under the
lander on the hover side of the tether. So this was very complicated
because we had very tight schedule, very short time. All these people are
different governments with each it’s sometimes
funding issues. We didn’t give them
any money because it was without exchange. It’s funds like that that we
proceed in space activities. So different culture,
different money, different schedules
on, I was in charge of monitoring the schedule in
order them to deliver that part at a good, appropriate time
in order Kines to be able to integrate as a puzzle all
of the part of the seismometer and after to make all the
test of the seismometer alone but to complete. And after to go to Lockheed
Martin to test those seismometer integrated
on the lander. I could take to finish an
image that part of my job was if I was a band
leader as a musician and I have a very large
band who arrive with various musicians, if a lot of
musicians like a symphonic orchestra, some every
people are playing and different instrument are
coming from different music. Some are classical music, jazz
music, rock and roll music. I don’t know, I wish why
not all beautiful musics that don’t know themselves. They are all the ages, they
don’t speak the same tongue, the same language, and I
gave them the most difficult score which has been never
recorded before by nobody. So I told them okay, we have
to play this chord together and the concert is very soon. So they did the job. It was very interesting. It was not only your
technical adventure, it was also human adventure. And I am very proud of them
because they succeeded to work. It was sometimes
also a bit difficult but now they are very
proud and can tell you that the show on the concert
begins tomorrow. – Okay what a speech. – Hi I’m glad to be
here with you today. I’m Tilman Spohn from the
German Space Association, Institute of Planetary
Research in Berlin, Germany. And I’m the instrument lead
of the heat flow probe, or the PI of the
heat flow probe. I made a career as a modeler
of the interior structure and dynamics and
energetics of the Earth and terrestrial planets. And such I noticed how
important the quantity of characterizing the interior
dynamics and energy balance the heat flow is. I mean the rate of heat that
escaping from the interior, it sort of measures the
rate of the turnovers in the interior and the
dynamics and it’s related to volcanism on the
surface and even to the rate of generation of quakes. It’s basically coming all
from the heat of the interior. And I made up my mind that wow,
we gonna have to measure it. And I was in the situation
as a then director of the institute in Berlin
to say let’s do that, and redevise that heat flow
probe that is flying to Mars and that will be
installed in January. Now you see the HP cubed
instrument on the screen. It is basically consisting
of a what we call a model, it’s not really
a model but it’s a sum that is hammering
itself into the ground carrying behind a cable
installing temperature sensors. And on the way down they’re
measuring the semiconductivity, and after we’ve installed
the temperature sensors, we have the
temperature gradient. And the product of
both is the heat flow. And when we have that quantity, we will be able to
characterize the present energy balance of the interior of Mars. I’ve been bricking with
Sue, Mercar, Bruce Banerdt, Phillippe Laudet and
others for a very long time of putting a geophysical
station on Mars. We’ve became friends
over the years. I’m so happy to be
together on that mission. I thank NASA that you
made that possible. With that, I hand over to you. Thank you very much. – I’m Jim Green. I’m the
NASA chief scientist. But that position
only started in May. Prior to that, for twelve
years I was the planetary science division director, and so I had the opportunity
to be part of the decision in selecting InSight for
this spectacular opportunity of getting down on the surface
and making measurements of fundamental importance
for the understanding of how terrestrial
planets are put together. I’m a magnetus
ferrite physicist, which means that I never met a
magnetic field I didn’t like. Even when they had
magnetic fields, and then no longer can
generate their own field. And that’s what
Mars is all about. However, there’s an auxiliary
science package on InSight and that particular package
has a magnetometer on it. And that magnetometer
will be important in helping understand and help
interpret the seismic waves, but it will also be
able to measure currents in the ionosphere. And so it’s really our
first major experiment on the surface to understand
space weather effects at Mars. So humans which go to Mars
will rely on data from InSight. If Mars shakes, and it
does, how bad is that? What kind of structures
will we have to build? Solar storms that hit the
atmosphere and the ionosphere of Mars generating currents,
how bad are those currents? And will they affect
systems on the surface? InSight will tell
us these things. A spectacular mission that
feeds forward well into human exploration, and is
a fundamental next step in exploring Mars. Now I believe that science
isn’t done until it is shared, and we as scientists do
that at scientific meetings. But what we’re
doing here is indeed having everyone come along. I, like you, are coming
along for the ride. There’s no button
I’m gonna push. There’s nothing I’m gonna do. There’s no decision
I have to make. I am just enthralled with the
process of how we’re going to do this magnificent mission. Landing it on a surface
of another planet, and it is not easy. Just in the last several years
there’s been some attempts for landing on Mars
that have failed. You know, are we lucky?
When will our luck run out? And when do we have to
apply all the engineering that we know to determine
what worked right and what didn’t work right? These are the kind of things
that we’re gonna find out in the next 24 hours. This will become a
valid science mission when those solar panels
are displayed like this and we charge the
battery back up. Then the mission
really will start. Then it’s gonna be two
Earth years on the surface making all kinds
of measurements. Now with InSight is a chip. You know I said we want
to share with the public what we’re doing. And that chip’s got 2.4
million names of people that wanted their name on Mars. Hopefully many in
this room did that. If you didn’t, you’ll have
to wait til the next mission. So with that, let’s
get into the questions. – Absolutely, and just like
a spacecraft in its payload faring, we’re trying to
pack a lot of awesome into a very small space,
so if you’ve got a question in the house, please
raise your hand so we can get a
microphone to you. Right there. – Hi. I had a question
about the mole. I read an article where
it was talking about how it works like a jackhammer. It just slowly hammers down
over a couple of months, and in one of the initial
tests they pulled all the atmosphere out of
the test chamber and it kept hammering itself up. How did they overcome that? – Yeah I mean we noticed
that the capability of it to enter into the surface depends
on the atmospheric pressure. So we made a study,
systematic study reducing the atmospheric pressure
in a pressure chamber. And we found that it works
best at the Earth’s atmosphere and pressures higher, but
it still works fine on Mars but when we go to lunar, we
have to make a different design. It wouldn’t work so
well on the Moon, but in Mars it
should be working. And the pressure
is just keeping it, as subtle as it is. – [Audience] Hi, any chance
that we can ID life on Mars? Maybe with the
instruments on board? – Not immediately, you
know. Well you know, we will be killing
the beasts on it if we hit it with the most. No I mean I’m
joking but you know, we could say something
about habitability maybe, but not about life immediately. – So the heat probe’s
gonna give us information about how Mars radiates heat. That will enable a
full model of Mars, and then there’ll be a
certain time or period, place rather within that
surface for which the heat is enough to maintain
water as a liquid. And if there’s
aquifers down there, Mars has had a lot
of water in its past. It’s in the rocks,
it’s under the surface, and if it’s below the
area where it can actually stay in a liquid form, then you got a
possibility for life. So indeed that would
be one of the factors that we look at. – [Stephanie] Okay let’s go
ahead and take one question from social media and then
we’ll come back into the house. – Sure thing. So Pixel
Princess on Twitter is asking how do you actually pick the
instruments to put on a lander in order to fulfill
the mission objectives? – Okay if that comes to
me, I’d say that’s easy. We solicited the best
spacecraft that our scientific minds can put together, and that comes then
together as a mission. So this was a solicited
opportunity for what’s called the discovery program, and this was our top pick in
that program for that year. It beat out something
like 27 other missions. But Sue, how do you put
the instruments together? – Right. So as Jim said,
these are competed missions and so the principal
investigators and
the science team come together to choose those
instruments for competed missions, so in this case it’s
driven by our science team and the goals of understanding
the interior of Mars. – [Stephanie] Okay. Let’s
get a mic right down here. – I guess this is kind
of a silly question, but who gets to name
these landers and rovers? Is it the team directly or
who gets the cool names? – When this proposal came in, the name of the
mission was Gems. Okay, Gems. So Sue,
what happened next? – Yeah so unfortunately
that name was taken by another spacecraft that
NASA was flying I believe around the Earth, so we had
to come up with a new name. And in fact again, that’s
the domain of the principal investigator and with input
from the science team so we came up with a new name, and Bruce was the one who
got to make the final call. But I was on board
with this one too. So that’s how we did it. – So it’s a backronym guys.
Who among you can give us the full backronym? You guys know about backronyms? When you start with the
word insight and then you back out of it to make
the acronym? So interior- – Exploration using
seismology, geodyssey, and heat transport. – There you go. I think we’ve
got time for one more question in the house. Let’s get
a microphone right down here on the aisle. There we go. Just trying to keep it even,
both halves of the brain here. – So we heard from Dr.
Banerdt this morning about this being kind of a dream
to get a seismometer on Mars for decades now. What changed? Why now? Why
has this all of a sudden become a priority for us? – That’s a really good question. You know from my perspective, it all came together. You have the best
instrumentors in the world building the best instruments, the type of instruments
that we have. And they’re put
together as a team. So it’s all about getting
the right set of instruments to answer a certain
set of questions. In other words those instruments
will make measurements. The measurements
then are adequate to
answer the questions. And that we call
science closure. This mission had that. It’s now time to select it. – Alright, well speaking
of science closure, that’s all the time we
have for this panel, so please a round of
applause for our scientists. [applause] Alright. We will take more
questions online afterwards, promise promise. Okay
so, once InSight lands, she is set to be the
chillest robot on Mars. Get those solar arrays
open, soak up some rays, and feel for the good
vibrations, right. She’s pretty deep.
All puns intended. I’ll be here all week guys. So to give us a look at the
robot’s eye-view of Mars and show you how you can
try your hand at deploying instruments, I want to
bring out someone behind a new interactive experience
entitled Experience InSight, please welcome Jason Craig from our visualizations
team. Jason. [applause] – Hello, good afternoon. Just
gonna grab a keyboard here. Okay so I have a number of
digital playthings for you to experiment with,
on your phone as well. Good it’s up here.
This is ice.nasa.gov. This is a site that I
maintain and we first of all, if you don’t already
have the real-time Eyes on the Solar System
on your laptop or desktop, you should do that right away. But I’m here to show
you Experience InSight, and you can go on
your phone right now and follow along if you desire. Ice.nasa.gov/insight or click
on the little banner there. First I’d like, let’s
just take a quick look at where we are as
far as events live. So this is Eyes on
the Solar System and there is the holy
triumvirate MarCO A
and B and InSight. So you can see it’s
not quite close enough to be visually compelling, but I can fast forward. So as we go in so this is
what’s fun about the little video game, you
can go have a look. See it come in. Come into the system
which is rather busy. As you can see we
have a lot going on. And there they go. That’s tomorrow, spoiler alert. Okay so do check that
out if you don’t have it, but let’s get on to InSight. So this is real-time,
well not real-time, this is a simulation of landed
operations for the mission. And anything with a web
browser can do this, including those of you
who are Linux fans. So that’s good. So go full screen and the
first thing we wanna see is you can move around at will. You can go look
at what you like. This is actually based
on the high rise terrain from Mars reconnaissance orbiter
inside the landing ellipse, so we’re trying to make it
as accurate as possible. It’s a real 3D ray trace model. And we can deploy,
so let’s go ahead and get right down to it. So let’s get those
solar panels out. Now on the ground this’ll
take about 16 minutes, but we don’t have
that kind of time. So let’s just get to it. So it’s kind of cool,
you’re free to wander about and take a close look. And then we can go ahead. So we can keep hitting
the next button to go to the next step, in this case which
will be just this little camera
deploying over here. So in the bottom right
corner, you can see this is the context camera
and we also have the, this is the context camera. And we also have the arm camera. So let me skip ahead
again, let’s go ahead and get that arm going. And note in the bottom right,
you get the point of view of the camera itself. So again, we’re speeding ahead. This is going to take months. This is going to take months
for the actual mission, but you can get a
little sneak preview. There goes the grapple,
that’s kind of cool right. This thing just
comes off like that. Let’s go ahead onto
the seismometer. Gently, oh so gently. I’m gonna skip ahead. Let’s go ahead and
get the windshield. And you can learn
about these things. There’s text so you can read
more about it and whatnot. But this is kind of cool
just to see how it actually physically does these things, puts it on the ground. Alright I’m gonna skip ahead, time is precious. So finally we are gonna break
out the heat flow instrument. Do some digging. So this is really fascinating. I don’t know if you guys, if
you’re into geophysics or not, but this is incredibly
fascinating. Once you start
learning about it, it’s amazing what we can
figure out about the structure and evolution of another
planet and it can even tell us more about Earth itself, which I’m sure you
probably heard already but the more you get into it, the more rewarding it is. So there it is. And finally a quick look
at what it’s going to do. But not that fast. So that’s it. You can also go over each
and every instrument, so once you have it
out you can just kinda glide over all these and pick
one you wanna learn about, like for example this is an
extraordinarily important instrument on the
mission, the rise antenna, which will do more than any
other instrument to figure out do we have a rocky
core or molten core? What do we have down there? So it’s like, if you have an
egg and a hard boiled egg, and a raw egg and you spin them, you can tell which one’s which, and that’s pretty much kind of
the same thing with the core. And so we’ll detect the
wobble on Mars with this and hopefully get some clues
as to what’s going on inside. And you can look at the
antennas and whatnot. And finally just for fun,
you can play with the arm. So once you have the arm there, you can see how it moves.
There you go. Fun fun fun. Okay so that is the software
and please don’t forget to go to the
website ice.nasa.gov and there’s a variety
of things there. We also have augmented
reality you can put InSight right on the ground
in front of you in Spacecraft 3D
and Spacecraft AR. Okay and I’ll be giving
demos tomorrow so with that, I’d like to turn it
back over to Stephanie. – Alright, Jason Craig. If
you have questions for Jason, you can find him on
Twitter @nasa_eyes, so all your questions about
that awesome experience and all of the Eyes suite
of products that he showed. Okay so before those moments
of zen on the surface there are a few
more harrowing ones we have to get through first:
the seven minutes of terror. Yes, those final mission
milestones from the top of the atmosphere all the way
down to the surface, everything has to go just right, so to tell us more about that
and about how the spacecraft was made, all of its
instrumentations, how they came together, and how
we’re gonna use that robotic arm to get our instruments
to the surface. Please welcome our
engineers. Give it up for Farah Alibay, InSight payload
systems engineer, NASA-JPL. Aline Zimmer, InSight EDL
systems manager, also of JPL. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu,
InSight instrument deployment SystemOps lead of JPL. And bringing in here from
Lockheed Martin Space, Tim Priser, a quality director. [applause] So I am gonna throw a
challenge out here to you guys to see if we can get through
an entire engineering segment without three-letter acronyms. So we love our TLA’s, we
love our alphabet soup, it’s like speaking
another language, but I believe in
you. Let’s do this. Farah, let’s start us off. – So what I heard is we’re
allowed four-letter acronyms, just not three-letter
ones right? So my name is Farah, I’m a
payload systems engineer. So that means absolutely
nothing to you, but what that means is
that my job is to make sure that the instruments
in the spacecraft play nice with each other. InSight is kind of an
interesting spacecraft in a sense that it’s got
pieces from just about everywhere right, the
seismometer’s from France, the probe is from Germany, the spacecraft is actually
built at Lockheed Martin over in Denver. So my job essentially is when
we got all of these pieces, was to make sure that the
instruments and the spacecraft could talk to each other, that
they spoke essentially the same language, that they would
power on when we told them to power on, that it behaved
the way that it should. Basically to make sure
that once we land on Mars, that the instruments
are actually gonna work. The other cool thing
that I got to do leading up to
launch was actually to test all of
these instruments. We do all sorts of crazy
things with the spacecraft. We fold it up, put it on a
shake table, and shake it as hard as we can. It seems like a horrible idea, but the reason why we do
that is because by the time we land tomorrow, we
want to make sure that that environment is gonna
see that it can survive that. We also put it in Mars,
well not vacuum but Mars’ pressure and temperature
and test all of that. So that was leading
up to launch, and then my second
job is starting, oh and behind you you’re
seeing sort of what the test environment looks like. This is our indoors Mars
test bed here at JPL. So yeah, my second job
starts actually on Tuesday, once we land on the surface. I’m a TUSL, and what that
stands for is tactical uplink shift lead, which is
terrifying because my job is essentially to manage what
we call a tactical shift. We essentially at JPL work when the spacecraft
is asleep at night. Obviously it has solar arrays so we don’t do anything at night. And then when it wakes
up in the morning, we have sent it a piece
of code essentially, it’s a piece of code that
we built together as a team, send it, and then it
does that during the day and at night before
it goes to sleep, it sends us all its data down. It’s like hey guys,
this is what I did. We look at it and create
another piece of code that we send up. So my job is essentially
to manage that shift and to make sure that
everyone’s working together, that all of these different
pieces of code essentially are behaving well and
that they’re going to do, the spacecraft will do
what it’s supposed to do. So my first shift is
actually going to be Tuesday, that’s when we first
turn on the instruments. So I’m super excited about that. But in the meantime
we still have to land. And one of the really
neat things about InSight is that there’s a
ton of young people working on this mission, so for me it’s been super fun. We’re all really good
friends and so it’s actually really fun to come in to work. And one of these
young people is Aline. I’ve actually known Aline
since I was an intern. I first interned
here back in 2012 when Curiosity was landing, and we were next door office
mates for a very long time. So I’ll hand off to
her to talk about EDL. – Thank you Farah. So
my name is Aline Zimmer, I am a systems engineer for the entry, descent,
and landing team. And the job of the entry,
descent, and landing team is essentially to, and then
ultimately the responsibility as we heard at the beginning
of the programming, to take the InSight lander
and its precious science instruments from more
than 12,000 miles per hour at the top of the atmosphere
down to a slow, soft, gentle landing and
essentially a full stop on the Martian surface. And all that happens
in only seven minutes, and those are the
seven minutes of terror that you’ve heard about so much. And I’d like to give you
a little insight into, no pun intended, into why I
think that is so terrifying. And there’s so many
layers of terrifying. One is that it’s this
really carefully crafted and orchestrated series of
events that all have to happen perfectly, at the right time, at the right conditions,
for this to go well, for tomorrow to be successful, and that’s one thing. But it’s not that it
has to go perfectly, it also has to be
completely autonomous because while it takes the
spacecraft seven minutes to get from the top of the
atmosphere to the surface, the signal that the
spacecraft sends back to Earth takes eight minutes,
so when we hear tomorrow in the control
room where I’m gonna be, when we hear that the spacecraft
has entered the atmosphere, the spacecraft’s actually
already on the surface, and all we can do is sit
back and watch and find out together with you
guys what happened. And there’s absolutely
nothing we can do about it at that point. And then the third thing that
makes it really terrifying is that historically,
as a species, we’ve not been very
good at this, right. From any space agency
around the world, of all the attempts
of landing on Mars, less than half have
been successful. So even though we think
we’ve done everything to be prepared for tomorrow, and we’re confident
that we have, there’s always that
what-if, right. That little bit that
you may not know about that you having a bad day or, that’s just terrifying. And so with all this
terrifying stuff, I’d be amiss not to
mention that this is also really exciting, right. As maybe for you, for me
and I know also for Farah, this is my first
attempting to land on Mars. And I’m really excited
about that because these opportunities are so rare. In this entire decade, NASA
has only attempted it twice. So these opportunities just
don’t come around very often and I’m really excited
and really grateful and honored to be
part of this tomorrow. And I’m really excited
to be in the MSA and the- sorry, I messed up. – [Stephanie] You can fix
it. You have the power. – I know, so when we call
the mission support area, the control room essentially, I’ll be in the
control room tomorrow. I’ll be watching
the data come down. I’ll be listening for
these beacons and the tones to hear that the
spacecraft is okay. And that’s probably
the most exciting thing at this point. And then the last thing
is as Farah has said, it’s really exciting
to work in this team. It’s an amazing team. It’s a bunch of young people, but it’s also a
bunch of veterans. People that have landed
on Mars multiple times. I don’t know how many of those
are even exist in the world, but a lot of them, right. I was actually gonna
be my segue way. So there’s a lot of
these people that have so much experience that
we get to learn from and I really appreciate that. It’s been a really
exciting time, and with that I
want to hand it over to one of these veterans. Ashitey, tell us
about your time. – Hey, thank you. So right now
I just feel like a dinosaur. I don’t know what he feels so, this is my fifth
landing on Mars. And my name is Ashitey
Trebi-Ollennu and I’m in charge of the instrument
deployment system, and basically what the
instrument deployment system consists of is the robotic arm, the camera on the arm, the grapple, and then the
camera underneath the lander. And our responsibility
is to pick up the tens of millions of payloads
and put them on the surface. The key thing is that you
don’t drop them. Easy to say. And we don’t want to end up like Viking where the seismometer
was left on the deck, so my PI, my co-deputy PI
reminds me of that every day. So before we got here,
I was a manager of the robotic arm, developing
the robotic arm system, testing it, going through
all environmental testing. The grapple, and
I’m sure most people know about the grapple, so if you think about the
instrument deployment system, you can think of it as
the hand, the fingers, and the eyes of the scientist. And the grapple basically
is a five finger crawl that opens and closes,
and it’s almost like an arcade, the one that
you see at the arcade when your kids went
to pick up those bears that you’re never able
to actually get them. So this grapple works a
little bit differently. So it’s always closed. You
need to power it on to open it. So the chances of you dropping
the instrument is zero. So even if you lose
power it’s always closed. You have to actively open it. And it also uses a wax actuator. Basically we melt
wax to open it up. And then once it’s open,
we turn the heater off and then it closes. So we only have an open button. We don’t have a close button. Then we have a camera. Our
camera actually is loaned from, it’s a spare from MSL, Mars
Science Lab, Curiosity rover. And then our fisheye camera underneath the
lander is from MER. And then the arm
that we’re gonna use in a few days when
we land on Mars is also from Mars 01. So if you think about the
instrument deployment system on InSight, it’s like
a kinda used car. So we’ve got all
these used elements, and then we’ve
brought them together and they’re from different eras. The arm is from what we call the faster, better, cheaper era, where we would try
to develop things a little bit faster,
cutting corners. So we now have to
make it compliant in our new routine
that is more rigorous. So we had to go through
several iterations and design and
testing to be able to get it to be flight-worthy. And right now we’re
transitioning, and the lead for the team
that would actually be doing the instrument deployment,
we have a good group of guys, sorry two
ladies and three guys. And we’re gonna have
a lot of fun on Mars. So I’ve worked on all the
Mars robotic arms from MER, Spirit of Opportunity,
worked on Phoenix sticking eyes on Mars. We used to call ourselves
the grave diggers on Mars. And we’re gonna do a very unique robotic arm operation on Mars. The first time we’re gonna
pick an instrument off a deck, and we’re gonna place
it on the ground and we’re gonna leave it there for the rest of its life. That has never been done before. We usually have the
instrument on the arm, we put it down, and
we pick it back up. So this is gonna
be pretty exciting. And we feel very privileged
to be working on a mission that will make the
footnote of history. So by that, I’ll hand
over to my friend here. – Thank you Ashitey. I’m very
fortunate to have worked on nine Mars missions with
the folks here at JPL. It’s a very powerful
relationship in my mind, and the two of you have
talked about the team that you’re building. It’s
turning into a family. I can tell you my memories
of Odyssey was my first, and then MRO, but the
memories that I have of those missions are
the people, the faces. I can hear the voices and
the discussions and the very, I remember the very conference
room and whiteboard, may have been
chalkboard back then. But that’s the memories that
I have of the early missions. I’ve worked on four
of the aeroshells, three of the orbiters, and two, including this one,
of the landers. And JPL has done
just a fantastic job of pulling together, and
you’ve seen them already in this presentation, the
best scientists in the world. The best engineers in the world, and they’re better today than
they were when I was there. I mean they come with the
skillset and a toolbox that I could not have imagined. Look at the visualization
we just got to enjoy. And then Rob Manning, right. Early on he talked us how,
that was on a whiteboard but it wasn’t nearly as
exciting and informative as to what he was able
to walk through that. What I wanted to do, I
brought some building blocks of some of the
engineering solutions that we have come up with
at Lockheed Martin to solve some of those problems. And it’s just four pieces
of the thousand miracles that have to happen at the
right time and the right place in the right order to
survive that environment. And I talked to Ashitey
just before we came up here. As soon as we clear
the tower back in May, all the EDL guys said oh,
guess what we have to do now? Well as soon as we
touch down tomorrow, Ashitey and the scientists
are gonna say uh-oh, I guess we have to
deploy and get this stuff on the surface successfully. Every event is critical
until it’s behind you and then suddenly the
next one is critical, however simple or
complex that is. And to think about the
hundreds or thousands of critical events that have
to happen during that seven minutes, and you know
these folks have been going through that in their
minds, on whiteboards, in discussions, for the
last six to seven years. They’ve watched it play
out in simulations. They’ve actually been
the articles under
test in the ORT’s. So they’ve lived this, and
tomorrow when it plays out on those telemetry screens,
they’ve seen it already. They saw it in the ORT’s. They’ve seen it when
they reviewed data. And it’s going to be so surreal, because they’ve seen it. You don’t have to imagine
it, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it in the data. You’ve seen it in the tests. You’ve seen it in
your arguments. You’ve seen it in
your nightmares. It’s gonna play
out just like that. So what I’ve got here
is just a simple, this is for the 2,000 degrees. Not only does it have to survive
heat that can melt steel, which by the way we’ve crafted
this concoction of cork powder and some adhesive
and that absorbs that heat. But we also have to survive
the 12 G’s of deceleration and the cork isn’t very
good at structural stability and strength but we have
this honeycomb material that we do use for
that structure. And we will actually
test structural loads of the heat shield without
the thermal protection system on it for that very reason. So we need to make sure the
12 G’s of 850 pound spacecraft can be survived structurally
and then thermally. We have this magic I
wanna call it cake batter that we hand pack into
this honeycomb material. – Speaking of the structural
integrity of the shell, I think this is gonna
have to be the last thing that we show. We’re gonna
take one social media question and maybe one more
quick question in the house. And then we’re gonna have
to move on because we’re almost at the top of the hour. – Perfect. Come up and talk
to me. This is cool stuff. – And we’ll get hands
on with that tomorrow, so everybody at home, watch
#NASASocial #MarsLanding for more on that. Jason? – Sure so we have a comment
here actually from a Twitter user Stein Monster who’s asking: instead of calling it
seven minutes of terror, can we call it seven minutes of engineering
confidence instead? How are you guys
feeling about that? – It would still be terrifying. – I’ve actually
thought about that, and I was in your seat,
and I was terrified. But there is, after we have
been able to demonstrate this, starting with MERA and
BE then Phoenix then MSL, there are some aspirational
changes into expectational changes that have
happened to some guys that have survived it. So there is a difference, right. – It’s so scary to us
cause we’re doing it for the first time. – The terror does
change to something a little bit more confident. – Okay we’ve got time for one
quick question in the house. Let’s get a microphone
right down here. – Mr. Priser, this
one’s for you. I’m gonna be filming the answer so you don’t have to
look directly at me but, you’ve worked on nine
missions, correct? So astronauts talk about
their perspective changing when they’re in space, so I’m just curious
how your perspective in your everyday
life has changed working on technology
that has gone millions of miles
away from Earth? – It’s fun because the
discussion is just like this one also happen in the
culdesac at home. When we go into work and we
work with our simulations and on our assumptions
and our fears and we ask the what-if’s and
we go off and answer them, they become that’s what we do. That’s who we are
while we come to work at either JPL or
Lockheed Martin or DLR. But when we get to go home
and someone asks the simple question and then you get to
answer it in a conversational way and then you
start to realize, you start to see
expressions on people’s face that you’re doing what?
You guys are crazy. And it’s like yeah
I guess we are, but it’s really, really fun. And it has changed from a
job and problem to solve to an amazing story
that we get to share and especially when you
get to talk to the folks that are single-digit in age. Their eyes light up
and you can just see what they’re going to accomplish
in about 15 to 20 years with what we’ve been
able to say hey, you have a problem to solve,
let’s solve it with a, whatever you have
on hand, right, or
innovate something new. And they all start nodding. And they can come
up with solutions that we just don’t even imagine. Like I said, they come with
talents and skills and tools in their toolbox that we just
didn’t have, still don’t. But yeah it’s an
amazing conversation. I can talk, and she’s
gonna make me stop, but I could talk for
hours with people about what we get to do here. Absolutely, and like I said, we all had Mars
aspirations at one point. Some people, and I’m
happy that they do. There’s a lot of excitement for
Mars and the Moon right now. But when those aspirations
get to change into expectations because
we’ve done it and we’ve started to
learn from how to do it, and to do it better
the next time. That’s pretty special. – Alright. Thank you so much. Let’s give it up for
our engineering panel. Okay and in our few
remaining minutes, I just want to take
time to talk about the spacecraft flying in
tandem with InSight on the way to Mars. Two briefcase-sized
satellites called MarCO, MarCO A and MarCO B. To tell us more about them and
why they have the nicknames Wall-E and Eve, please
welcome Andy Klesh, MarCO chief engineer from JPL, and Anne Maranin, the
MarCO B mission manager. – Thank you very much. So as she said, I am
the chief engineer on the MarCO spacecraft, and
this is a full-size model of one of our two
spacecraft that are headed by Mars right now. As chief engineer, you
can think of my role as chief firefighter. On any given day I could do
anything from washing the floors up to actually going into
the technical challenge that we have in order
to make these spacecraft be successful and
support InSight at Mars. And really we had
a lot of work to do to make these things successful. Because it was a
technology demonstration. It was a challenge to us to see what could we do
with small spacecraft to support such a
large and compelling science mission such as InSight. When we started the spacecraft, we were given just
15 months to go from PowerPoint slides to actually
being flight-ready on here. And today I’m proud to
say that after traveling 300 million kilometers,
our two spacecraft are going to be flying
by Mars tomorrow. To tell you more about
what’s actually going on with the MarCOS themselves
and how they were built, I’ll pass it to Anne. – Hi my name is Anne Maranin. For tomorrow I will be the
MarCO B mission manager. I’ve had a couple different
roles on the spacecraft in the only one year that I’ve
actually been working on it. And in that year we’ve
put one together, tested both of them, have
launched both of them, and have now operated
them up until this point. So there’s a lot that happened in a very short amount of time and it was all very exciting. So tomorrow I will be on console looking at data
from the spacecraft and interpreting
that data to see how healthy the spacecraft is in its support of InSight
entry, descent, and landing. On the spacecraft itself as
Stephanie alluded to before, they’re known as Wall-E and Eve and the reason for that is the, about half of the
internal volume of the spacecraft has fire
extinguisher fluid inside, and that is our propellant. So the two MarCO spacecraft
had done their own trajectory correction maneuvers kind of very similar to
what InSight had to do, so we’d fly by Mars at a very
precise time and location. And just like
Wall-E in the movie, we use a fire extinguisher
to fly around Mars, or fly around space
to get to Mars. So that’s why the nickname
they kind of stuck. So MarCO B is the
one affectionately
referred to as Wall-E. – There you have it everybody. A trajectory correction maneuver
to get us where they need to be at the end of this show. A round of applause
for Anne and Andy. And a reminder to all of you, please join us
online, on NASA TV. We’re streaming everywhere. Go to nasa.gov/live. Landing coverage starts at
11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern, 1900 UTC or GMT. Follow us online, we’re
using #MarsLanding. Follow @NASA InSight
for the blow by blow @NASAJPL for news. We will see you online. Go NASA, go JPL, go
MarCO, go InSight! [applause]