DDN Storage Supports NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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DataDirect Networks has announced that NASA’s Mars InSight lander, which is preparing for arrival on Mars on Monday, November 26, to conduct an in-depth study into the crust, mantle and core of Mars, is being supported by DDN solutions to manage the intensely important information linked to the mission.

The Mars lander, InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, began its 205-day journey into space on May 5, 2018. InSight’s landing is expected to occur at 3:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday, November 26, as space enthusiasts watch online and at live viewing parties scheduled in 70 nationwide locations and four sites abroad.

'Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been a longstanding customer of DDN, and we feel truly privileged to play a part in the space exploration they are conducting. We look forward to the landing of InSight and are happy to share that experience with others around the globe. The data collected from the core of Mars will surely result in a better understanding of the red planet and potentially in life-changing outcomes for all of us here on Earth,' said Paul Bloch, president at DDN.

Landing on Mars is no simple feat. Entry, descent and landing (EDL) is a terrifying event that begins approximately 80 miles above the surface and lasts about 6 minutes. As this event takes place, cruise stage completes and an aeroshell descends through the atmosphere with a parachute and retrorockets that deploy to slow the spacecraft down. Suspended legs then extend to absorb some of the shock from the touchdown, and the EDL phase is complete.

Many lessons have been learned from past Mars missions, and EDL techniques are honed using Monte Carlo simulations. Every single movement of the spacecraft is precisely calculated from machine learning algorithms that record data and repeat Monte Carlo simulations after every single turn during EDL. All the data generated is stored on DDN EXAScaler appliances. Even though the Monte Carlo event is thoroughly calculated, EDL has flexibility to handle shifting weather. The mission team has the ability to tweak when InSight's parachute deploys and uses radar to find the landing surface, which is quite an astonishing feat.

The landing will take place in a landscape called Elysium Planitia, within an 81-mile long, 17-mile wide oval that is located on the western edge of a flat, smooth expanse of lava plain, which is similar to the topography in the southwestern regions of the United States. Unlike other highly-promoted Mars rover missions, InSight will remain where it lands and collect data from there, sending the data 91 million miles back to the DDN EXAScaler systems on Earth where deep analysis and simulation will occur.

InSight is the first robot of its kind to conduct this type of exploration work. The work represents the first-time drilling has occurred on Mars and will provide the means to measure the planet's seismology, heat flow and precision tracking. Having this data pushes new boundaries in space exploration and will give insight into the formation of our solar system. By comparing the interiors of Earth and Mars, scientists hope to better understand the universe and aid in discovering other planets that could support life.

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