美国宇航局的火星洞察号着陆器将经历“恐怖的7分钟”

“恐怖的7分钟”也可以称为“关键7分钟”,所谓“关键7分钟”是指需时约7分钟的一系列降落程序,让洞察号以每小时12300英里(每秒5.5公里)的速度进入火星大气层后,再把飞行时速降到约5英里/小时(2.24米/秒)的速度,然后再打开着陆推进器,以便进行软着陆。

By Jonathan Amos

BBC Science Correspondent, Pasadena

洞察号着陆器的透明图像,图JPL/NASA

北京时间2018年11月27日凌晨3点(美国东部时间26日下午2点),洞察号着陆器上的推进器催化剂床将打开加热器。

洞察号在进入的(火星大气层)前七分钟会抛弃其巡航阶段的过程。这次分离后剩下的航天器被称为“进入飞行器”,由机壳(后壳加上隔热罩)和着陆器组成。到目前为止,洞察号的无线电传输将经由巡航级上的中增益天线进行,如果没有它,那么洞察号将开始从后壳上的全向天线发送仅载波(无数据)的信号, 这被称为环绕式贴片天线。

洞察号着陆器的目标是位于火星赤道以北的平原,称为埃律西昂平原(Elysium Planitia)。

洞察号携带了一套仪器,其中许多都是来自欧洲的,仪器的作用是试图确定岩石行星-火星的内部结构。

探测器从火星上发出的确认安全着陆的信号应该会在北京时间的11月27日凌晨03:53被接收到,给出或采取一分钟的误差时间。

与先前的地面任务一样,洞察号必须在“恐怖的七分钟”中幸存下来。这一过程所花费的时间为探测器以超音速的速度进入火星稀薄的大气层中,当快要抵达火星表面时,以减慢到步行的速度降落,并轻轻地将自己降落到地面上。

很多人尝试过,大多数都失败了。作为人类,作为探险家,我们的打击率不到50%,”美国宇航局的科学主管托马斯·佐伯琴说。 “去火星真的很难。”

原计划于2016年3月发射的火星“洞察号”登陆器 (艺术家绘制图; 绘于2014年3月26日)。图:NASA/JPL-Caltech

洞察号将如何表演?

洞察号有其自身的一面。它将使用与挡热板、降落伞和制动火箭(retro-rocket)完全相同的组合,这些组合在2007年,美国宇航局的凤凰探测器火星“北极”定位中非常成功。

在加利福尼亚喷气推进实验室(JetPro.ionLaboratory.)的飞行任务控制中心里,工程师们对结果抱有平静的信心。也就是说,他们也非常了解统计数据。

项目经理汤姆·霍夫曼解释说:“我们已经做了所有可以想到的准备,以确保我们的进入、降落和着陆(EDL)尽可能的顺利。”但是火星作为一个未知的行星并不总是表现出好的结果来。我想我们的队伍已经做好了准备,我想我们的宇宙飞船也已经准备好了,我们只是不知道远处的火星是否也准备好了。

艺术家绘制的凤凰号 登陆器登陆时的图片, 其与洞察号的登陆有所相似。图:NASA/JPL/Corby Waste

最新的状态是什么?

EDL的工程师们一直在密切关注这颗红色星球的天气,特别是在寻找任何可能会发生沙尘暴和大风的证据,这些都可能会影响到洞察号在穿越大气层中时的状态,甚至让其变得更为复杂。

探测器的轨迹在星期日稍有改变,以确保它与位于火星表面上的埃律西昂平原的目标着陆区完全一致。

现在美国宇航局的团队很少能影响到其结果,因为其动态轨道参数都设置完毕。整个过程必然是自动化的,因为从地球上发出的命令程序需要8分钟才能穿越火星和地球之间的1.46亿公里的距离。很显然,你不太可能用操纵杆来控制远处的探测器。

洞察号降落到地面的过程将传输信息给地球。这些将通过两颗在上空飞行的小卫星传回给地球。地球上的射电望远镜也将跟踪探测器的进展,以防主要通信线路发生故障。

如果成功软着陆于表面上洞察号将会快速的拍摄周围的环境。这可能会在软着陆表面前30分钟内传回图像。

洞察号将使用在2007年凤凰号任务上被证实成功着陆的技术。

这个任务有什么不同?

这将是第一个致力于研究火星内部的探测器。

科学家们想知道火星的内部是如何构造的,从它的核心到地壳。洞察号将会有三个主要实验来实现这一目标。

第一个是一套法英地震仪,将在火星的地面收听“火星的地震”。这些振动将揭示岩石层的位置以及它们是由什么构成的。

第二个是德国的一套“鼹鼠”仪器,它将会钻到火星地下5米深的地方,以测量火星的温度。这让我们可以更深入的了解到火星的地质活动。

第三个实验将使用无线电传输来非常精确地确定行星在其轴上的摆动情况。副项目科学家Suzanne Smrekar使用这个类比:“如果你拿一个生鸡蛋和一个熟鸡蛋并旋转它们,它们会因为内部液体的分布而摇摆不同。今天,我们仍然不知道火星的核心是液体还是固体,火星的核心到底有多大?这一系列的问题洞察号有望会给我们一个明确的答案。”

为什么我们需要知道这一点?

科学家们已经非常了解地球内部是如何构造的了,并且他们也有一些很好的模型来描述45亿年前太阳系诞生时这种结构的起源。但是地球只是一个数据点,火星将给研究人员带来一种不同的视角,让我们可以了解到岩石行星是如何通过时间来构造和演化的。

洞察号的首席科学家Bruce Banerdt说:“关于行星如何演化的小细节就类似于我们认为像地球这样你可以去度假、去晒黑的地方,但像金星那样你会在几秒钟内自燃,或者像火星那样你会被冻死。”

参考资料

1.Nasa's Mars InSight mission heads for '7 minutes of terror'

2.NASA-MARS InSight Mission Skip Navigation

3.天文学名词

 

文章作者:零度星系(天文在线)

审核人员:暂无,征集审核志愿者中。要求细心仔细,女生优先。)

最终审核

编辑用时:2018年11月26日 -2018年11月26日(花费时长:约6个小时)

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最后更新2018年11月26日星期一

注意:所有信息数据庞大,难免出现错误,还请指出错误所在好加以改之。

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