Like any submissive creation, the NASA Mars InSight landing gear promised to call home, safely reaching its destination on November 26th.
But it will not be a detailed conversation, and NASA engineers can’t really be sure when the call comes, or even it will come from the InSight landing module itself. Everyone knows that the team has developed five separate communication routes that will help earthlings track the progress of their work on the Red Planet.
InSight itself can create two types of simple signals. During landing, it will create steady tones of radio waves, which are affected by an obvious landing process — their frequency will change as the spacecraft deploys its parachute and slows down quickly, for example. [NASA’s Mars InSight Lander: 10 Surprising Facts]
As soon as he lands, InSight will release two more beacon signals, at a distance of 7 minutes and at different wavelengths. If engineers can catch the second of these two signals, which is especially strong, they will be especially pleased, as this means that the InSight is probably in good condition. However, there will still be hours before they learn that the dump truck has deployed its solar panels unprecedentedly.
But since they are dealing with interplanetary travel, engineers built three possible alternative ways of hearing from InSight, relying on other spacecraft on Mars. InSight's own tiny companions, the two cubes that make up the Mars Cube One, or the MarCO project, will be arriving on the Red Planet with a landing pad.
Marco engineers are hoping that they will have the opportunity to talk about all the landing processes for those of us on Earth, including the transfer of the first photo of InSight. But since the Marco satellites are the first cubes ever to leave Earth's orbit, the team cannot be sure that they will perform as planned.
Fortunately, there are two large, more gray veteran NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars that will also be on hand to report on the big day: Mars Orbital and 2001 Mars Odyssey. The first will be especially useful for tracking the entire landing process, if it turns out that something went wrong, while the second will confirm that the solar grids have been properly opened with earth.
Of course, the problem with using many different communication tools — and with Mars, 91 million miles (146 million kilometers) from InSight, is that, even if everything is perfect, we humans will receive updates on scattershot as events unfold,
NASA may immediately know what InSight has done, or it may be a watch. We just need to wait and see.