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DDN part of data mining mission on Mars

15 Nov 2018

DataDirect Networks (DDN) today announced that it will be playing a role in one of NASA’s most critical missions.

InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a lander expected to land on the planet on November 26 to conduct an in-depth study into the crust, mantle, and core of Mars.

DDN will be supporting the management of the intensely important information linked to the mission.

Originally launched on May 5 2018, officials and space enthusiasts will be clamouring to watch online InSight’s 205 day journey come to an end.

As you can imagine, landing on Mars is no easy feat. According to NASA, entry, descent, and landing (EDL) is a nail-biting event that goes on for around six minutes, starting 80 miles from the surface of Mars.

In order of occurrence, the 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 take some of the shock from the touchdown, completeting the EDL stage.

According to DDN and NASA, many insights have been garnered from previous Mars missions, with EDL techniques 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.

Obviously this involves a copious amount of data, all of which is stored on DDN EXAScaler appliances. Despite the Monte Carlo event being thoroughly calculated, the mission team still has the ability to tweak settings in case of unforeseen events, like changing when the parachute deploys and deploying radar to find the landing surface.

“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,” says DDN president Paul Bloch.

“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.”

The landing will take place on a landscape called Elysium Planitia where InSight will remain and collect data to send 91 million miles back to the DDN EXAScaler systems on earth where deep analysis and simulation will occur.

According to NASA, InSight is the first robot of its kind to conduct this kind of exploration and this is the first time drilling has ever occurred on Mars, providing the means to measure the planet’s seismology, heat flow and precision tracking.

DDN says this data will push new boundaries in space exploration and give insights into the formation of our solar system.

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