CruiseThe cruise phase begins soon after separation from the launch vehicle when the spacecraft completes the launch phase. Cruise ends when the spacecraft is about 60 days from entry into the Martian atmosphere, beginning with approach.
During cruise, the InSight lander is tucked inside its protective aeroshell, with the aeroshell attached to the cruise stage. The spacecraft makes several corrections to its trajectory by firing the cruise stage engines, with the first one just 10 days after launch. The purpose of these is to fine-tune the flight path so it hits just the right entry point at the top of the Martian atmosphere on landing day.
The trip to Mars takes about six months.
Some of the key activities during the cruise phase include:
- Health checks and maintenance of the spacecraft in its cruise configuration.
- Monitoring and calibration of the spacecraft and subsystems.
- Attitude correction turns (adjusts) to maintain the antenna pointing toward Earth for communications and to keep the solar panels pointed toward the Sun for power).
- Navigation activities, including trajectory correction maneuvers, to keep track of InSight’s position and precisely control it prior to approach.
- Preparation for entry, descent, and landing and surface operations, including communication tests used during entry, descent, and landing.