Like all mandatory creations, NASA's Mars InSight Lander has promised to call home safely and reach its destination on November 26th.
But there will not be a detailed conversation, and NASA engineers can not really be sure when the call comes – or if it comes from the InSight farmer himself. All in all, the team has developed five separate communication routes that help the earth to track their progress on the red planet.
InSight itself can produce two types of simple signals. During the landing process, it will produce stationary tones of radio waves affected by the clean landing process – their frequency will change when spacecraft uses its parachute and disappears quickly, for example. [NASA’s Mars InSight Lander: 10 Surprising Facts]
When landed, InSight will produce two additional four-signal signals, 7 minutes apart and in different wavelengths. If engineers can capture the other of the two signals, which is particularly strong, they will be particularly pleased, as it means that InSight is probably in good condition. However, it will be hours before they hear if the landlord unfurledfully unfurled his sunshine.
But because they are dealing with interplanetary travel, engineers have built in three possible alternative ways to hear from InSight, relying on other spacecraft on Mars. InSight's own little comrades come the two cubes that make up the Mars Cube One, or the MarCO project, to arrive at Red Planet with the landlord.
MarCO engineers hope they will have the ability to tell the entire landing process for those of us on earth, including redirecting InSight's first photograph. But because the MarCO satellites are the first cubes that ever leave the earth's circulation, the team can not be sure they will perform as planned.
Fortunately, there are two major, more grizzled veterans NASA spacecraft that circle Mars, which will also be available to report back on the big day: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the 2001 Mars Odyssey. The first will be a great help to track the entire landing process if it turns out something went wrong, while the other will confirm that the landlord's solarray has opened properly.
Of course, the problem is to rely on so many different means of communication – and with Mars being 91 million miles (146 million miles) away as InSight lands – it's all going well, we'll get people scattershot updates when events develop.
NASA may know directly that InSight has done it, or it may be hours. We just have to wait and see.