Space Sunday: seven minutes of terror and a round-up

Virgin Orbit
An artist’s impression of InSight on Mars. Credit: ETH Zurich

Mars is actually the most-studied planet in the solar system after Earth. In the last two decades alone, it has been under constant observation and study, yet we know very little about the Red Planet’s interior.

That should change from Monday, November 26th, 2018, when NASA’s latest mission to Mars, the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander touches down on Elysium Planitia.

The aim of the mission is to carry out a detailed examination of the Red Planet’s interior – its crust, mantle and core. Doing so can answer key questions about the early formation of the rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago. In addition, the data gathered may also help us to understand how rocky exoplanets orbiting other stars in our galaxy may have formed.

An artist’s impression of InSight on Mars, showing the SEIS package deployed. Credit: NASA / JPL

I’ve covered some of the more unique aspects of the mission in previous Space Sunday articles (see Insight on InSight, May 2018 and Mars Roundup, October 29th), including the use of two unique surface instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and HP3, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package to probe the planet’s interior. However, in order for the lander to use these, and its other instruments, it must conclude its 6-month journey to Mars with the Entry, Descent and Lander (EDL) phase – or as NASA mission engineers are calling it, 7 minutes of terror.

So-called since the 2012 landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, it is known as such because by the time mission control receives the initial signals indicating the start of EDL, the Lander will be on the surface of Mars – in one piece or otherwise. These crucial seven minutes comprise (in the anticipated Earth Receive Time, when the signals are expected to reach NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory):

  • 19:47 GMT: encased in its aeroshell, InSight will enter the upper reaches of Mars’ discernible atmosphere 114 km (77 mi) above the surface of planet at 19,800 km/h (12,300 mph) at a critical 12-degree angle of attack. Any less than this, and it could bounce back into space, any greater and the heat generated by atmospheric entry could overwhelm the heat protection (designed to withstand temperature up to 1,500oC / 2,700oF, which is reached  2 minutes into the entry sequence), and burn-up the lander.
  • 19:51 GMT: having been slowed to 1,400 km/h (860 mph) and at an altitude of 11 km (7 mi), the primary parachute is deployed. 15 seconds after this, the lower heat shield is jettisoned, and 10 second after that, the three landing legs are deployed.
  • 19:52 GMT: ground sensing radar activates to measure the distance to the ground.
  • 19:53:25 GMT: the lander separates from it aeroshell and parachute and the landing motors start firing as the lander orients itself for touchdown.
  • 19:53:47 GMT: the motors reduce velocity from 27 km/h to 8 km/h (17 mph to 5 mph).
  • 19:54 GMT: InSight touches down, with the motors immediately shutting down to avoid “bouncing” or toppling.
Virgin Orbit
An artist’s impression of InSight touching-down on Mars under propulsive power. Credit: NASA

Depending on how systems check-out, the first image from InSight could be received by mission control about 8-10 minutes after landing – although equally, it could be received any time in the first 24 hours after landing. The Mars Odyssey orbiter should overfly the landing area at around 01:30 GMT on November 27th, and will hopefully be able to image InSight on the surface of Mars with its large, circular solar panels fully deployed – these will initially remain in their stowed  configuration for around 20 minutes following landing to allow the dust thrown up by the lander’s motors to disperse and settle so that it doesn’t interfere with their operation.

Once settled on Mars, the primary mission, designed to run for a full Martian year, will commence – although it will be one that could take time to unfold.

InSight is kind of a laid-back, slow-motion mission. It’s going to take us probably two to three months, at least, to get our instruments down, and it could be early next spring before our principal instruments started returning data.

– InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt

As well as direct transmissions during EDL, NASA hopes to get real-time telemetry of the landing from a pair of cubesats, called Mars Cube One (MarCO), that launched as secondary payloads with InSight in May, and which will fly past Mars during the landing.

For those who wish to follow it, the InSight landing will be broadcast on a number of NASA on-line resources available.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: seven minutes of terror and a round-up”

Kimeu Korg: a return to DiXmiX in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

Saturday, November 24th saw the opening of a new exhibition at DiXmiX Gallery, curated by Dixmix Source. Osmosis De Un Sueño: The Return sees Kimeu Korg return for the second part of an exhibition first witnessed in June 2018 (read here for more), moving to the White Gallery at DiXmiX this time around.

Kimeu is perhaps Second Life’s artist most rooted in surrealism in the presentation of his work, which can easily equal the likes of Max Ernst and René Magritte. Sometimes blending in-world images with elements from the physical world, for this part of Osmosis De Un Sueño, he presents pieces firmly produced in-world, several of which include his sense of whimsy, others of which present a more pointed expression.

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

This part of the exhibition offers a baker’s dozen of images to b appreciated. I don’t usually ascribe an order in which to view an exhibition unless the artist has indicated one, but with Osmosis De Un Sueño: The Return, I would recommend starting a visit by taking the steps closest to the gallery’s main entrance up to the mezzanine level White Gallery.

Doing so will take you past Look and Retrato Equestre (Equestrian Portrait) into the core of Kimeu’s exhibition, allowing the full richest of his surrealist approach come to the fore, peppered in places with his sense of humour – and his ability to question norms, as with the subtle Prisoner, beautifully layered in potential meaning as it is, despite Kimeu’s disarming claim about his work.

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

Given the preponderance of skeletons in the pieces, one might think there is a little touch of post-Halloween in the exhibit, but to me these are in some way a lead up to what I consider to be the last piece in the exhibition – or at least, the one I would recommend coming to last of all, sitting above the entrance to the gallery’s events venue, The Atom.

Entitled Blind Obedience, it is a sobering piece, one which in the toxic political environment prevalent in parts of the world today, perhaps bears a special meaning and / or warning. Such is the imagery used, it sits well apart from the rest as it makes an extraordinarily strong statement, one given added impact by viewing it last of all (and the reason I’m not reproducing it here – it should be seen first-hand).

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

Another remarkable exhibition by one of Second Life’s most remarkable artists, and one that should not be missed as it remains open through until at least late December 2018.

SLurl Details


Steampunk, Victorian role-play and waffles

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, November 25th, 18:00 Magicland Storytime

With Caledonia Skytower at the Golden Horseshoe.

Monday, November 26th 19:00: The Legend of the Engineer

Industralia is a country some might recognise – a mix of Victorian England and the American Midwest thrown in, with just a touch of Australia. It’s a place where steam power is the modern wonder, while the mode of dress is, like the setting, decidedly Victorian – not that the locals call it thus. 

What is decidedly not Victorian, however, is the common use of mechanical human-shaped creations, called tikkerbots, to complete most menial tasks, or the airships that regularly pass overhead while mail is delivered by a pneumatic postal systems. It is a place we in this world would call “Steampunk”.

On the coast of Industralia lies the city port of Steamkettle Bay. It is home to Letitica and Gerard Liddle. Gerard is a talented inventor who has achieved a modest level of success with his practical yet whimsical household inventions. His wife Letitica is a very short, energetic woman who has a habit of mixing up her words. Together with their neighbours, the Liddles are preparing to celebrate the incoming new year – 1883. Why not join them?

Tuesday, November 27th

19:00: Urchin Preview Day – The Dickens Project

The Dickens Project once again opens its doors on Friday, November 30th. Ahead of that, on Tuesday, November 27th, visitors can gain a preview of this year’s event – through the eyes, a Victorian street urchin.

This HUD-based game combines elements of a hunt with free form (and optional) role play, together with an invitation to create (and share) your story. An urchin avatar is not required to play, but definitely encouraged. When you pick the game HUD within The Dickens Project, you’ll receive  suggestions on how to set up a low cost urchin “outfit.”

The Dickens Project 2018

As a poor urchin, you need food and money. The grocers, the bakers, the butchers all have food. Can you buy some? Maybe steal some? You might see the gleam of coins on the street. Can you pick those up?  If you ring a shop bell, the owner might have a job for you. Maybe down on the mudflats, treasure might be hiding.

Read the game play page for more. As an urchin, players are encouraged to interact with others in character, if they respond in kind, then role-play as you wish – see the role-play page for help and ideas. Afterwards, you can have the opportunity to write about your experience through a story that can be shared in a special reading event in Second Life.

Aoife Lorefield will be available at The Dickens Project throughout the day (North American daylight hours) to show interested urchin-ages around, answer questions, and share information concerning the event and The Dickens Project.

19:00: Everything on a Waffle

In the small Canadian town of Coal Harbour, in a quaint restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, everything comes on a waffle–lasagna, fish, you name it. Even waffles!

Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp loves this homey place.She a young girl who could use a little extra attention; her parents were lost at sea and believed to be dead, and while her Uncle Jack tries his best to care for her, doesn’t have a lot of free time, and the guardian he hires to look out for Primose is so old, child welfare isn’t foremost on her mind. Similarly, the school councillor is far more interested in listing her own concerns and telling her own tales to actually listen. All-in-all Nobody knows what exactly to think of young Primrose, and Primrose doesn’t quite know what to make of her small community, either.

So Kate Bowzer, the owner of The Girl on the Red Swing takes Primrose under her wing. She teaches  her how to cook, doesn’t patronise or chastise her, even when she puts her guinea pig too close to the oven and it catches fire. And so Primrose, in her own perceptive way, develops wisdom beyond her years and a belief system we could all do well to adopt – including the idea that hope is not crazy.

Join Faerie Maven-Pralou as she reads Polly Horvath’s 2002 Newbery Honor winner.

Wednesday, November 28th 19:00: The Quilters

With Caledonia Skytower.

Thursday, November 29th

19:00: Leiningen vs The Ants

Shandon Loring reads Carl Stephenson‘s short story about a stubborn coffee plantation owner in Brazil who refuses to evacuate his family and staff when faced with a vicious, deadly army of ants – regarded as “an act of God”, as they ravage and destroy everything before them – and the plantation lies directly in their path. Also presented in Kitely (hop://

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary science fiction and fantasy with Finn Zeddmore.

Friday, November 30th 21:00: The Dickens Project Opens

Idle Rogue Productions presents: Guerilla Burlesque – pre-show seating at 21:00, music and dancing after the performance from 23:00.

I’ll be previewing this year’s Dickens Project closer to the opening.


Please check with the Seanchai Library’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.