Scientists and engineers working on NASA's next mission to Mars will visit Cal Poly on Saturday as part of the InSight Mission Roadshow.
The mission is led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and will be the first to study Mars' deep interior. InSight's launch could occur as early as May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base — the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast.
InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, according to a school news release. It is expected to land on Mars on Nov. 26.
Featured speaker Troy Lee Hudson is scheduled to give a presentation about how the InSight robotic lander will "help scientists make comparisons between seismic activity on Earth and Mars."
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According to the release, the Atlas V rocket that will loft InSight beyond Earth also will launch a separate NASA experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO.
"These briefcase-sized communication CubeSats will fly on their own paths to Mars behind InSight," the release said.
Engineers hope to test the new deep-space communication equipment, and if they land on Mars, the MarCOs could relay back InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands.
Cal Poly engineering students assisted Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and JPL in the preparation and testing of the twin MarCO units, the school said.
The InSight mission roadshow will begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Chumash auditorium. It also will visit the San Luis Obispo Children's Museum from Friday to Sunday.
"Kids can get hands-on with models of the InSight spacecraft, Mars globe cutaways, use virtual reality headsets to see panoramas of the Red Planet and talk to NASA scientists and engineers," the release said.