Because it's at the end of a 6 month cruise and there's no turning back.
InSight will not enter closed orbit around Mars - its trajectory is hyperbolic so either it misses Mars entirely or it enters the atmosphere.
There were six planned course corrections during the cruise phase, the final one of which - TCM 6 - occurred on the day of the landing. This ...
Curiosity took 3 years to travel 10 km. There are no plans to visit InSight, Curiosity's mission is to survey Gale Crater and climb Mount Sharp.
Curiosity can travel on the order of 100 m/day. At that rate it would take 20 years to get to InSight. The RTG can provide enough power for about 14 years. The wheels are rated for ~40 km depending on the ...
InSight doesn't enter Martian orbit before EDL; it plows straight into Mars' atmosphere from interplanetary space. Thus, the time of landing is pretty much un-alterable after its final midcourse correction maneuvers; it cannot wait for perfect weather conditions to land.
That image was taken by the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC). It's located on the arm. With the arm in stowed position, it's logical that a section of the deck is in view.
In other words, it's an engineering instrument, not a science instrument.
According to the article "Seven Ways Mars InSight is Different", the driver was launch site availability:
InSight will ride on top of a powerful Atlas V 401 rocket, which allows for a planetary trajectory to Mars from either coast. Vandenberg was ultimately chosen because it had more availability during InSight’s launch period.
InSight is a very ...
tl;dr: The wet appearance of the soft-sided hexagonal box-like structure is an artifact of reflection and interpretation. The object itself is a cover over the vacuum vessel of the seismometer Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).
It is called an RWEB or "Remote Warm Enclosure Box (RWEB) consisting of two Mylar sheets with a two-centimeter ...
I'm pretty sure that by "soft good" he means it's an element of the system that can't be completely constrained from a simulation or engineering standpoint, in this case fabric. If you're working with static systems or systems with a limited amount of degrees of freedom, it's possible to calculate and analyse every possible state the system can be in. For ...
Good catch noting that Cygnus has the same solar panel design! Orbital ATK, developer of Cygnus, builds these panels under the "Ultraflex" and "Megaflex" brands, and did indeed supply them to JPL for two Mars missions:
Mars Phoenix Lander
The Mars Polar Lander program successfully qualified the panels for flight; but were ...
MarCO's primary mission isn't actually to transmit data from InSight during its entry period. That's a non-essentially function that can be done by other spacecraft, if needed. Instead, the main part of the MarCO mission is determining the functionality of cubesats during deep space missions. We've never before sent such small spacecraft this far from Earth, ...
I'm pretty sure it will be like the Phoenix lander. Collectively that part of the lander is referred to as the "Backshell". This is the image of Phoenix of the hardware on the surface.
This is mentioned in the official timeline.
Powered Descent - Once the lander separates from its backshell and parachute, 12 descent engines on the lander begin firing and ...
To add to Hobbes' answer: InSight hasn't unpacked yet for its stay!
There is a lot of equipment which was packaged on top of the deck for transport, which will be moved to their proper places over the next weeks. The white tubing on the right and bottom edges of the picture is the robotic arm, to which this camera is attached to. The arm's grapple is in ...
During the parachute descent, InSight's trajectory is at an angle to the vertical. After the backshell and parachute separate, the engines fire, leveling the craft. This allows some horizontal separation between the parachute and the craft:
11:52 a.m. PST (2:52 p.m. EST) — Activation of the radar that will sense the distance to the ground
It turns out this goes way back to the 1960s. Landing on a celestial body isn't easy; JPL had suffered a series of failures during the Ranger missions, some during launch and others further on in each mission. For Ranger 7, someone on the team (credit has been given to both Dick Wallace and Harrison Schurmeier) passed out peanuts to calm people's nerves . . ....
Neither the MarCO satellites nor InSight itself had the ability to enter Martian orbit - the interplanetary approach to Mars is quite fast, and it takes a lot of fuel to slow down enough for Mars to capture a probe. InSight itself used Mars's atmosphere to slow itself down, but the MarCO satellites had neither heat shields nor significant maneuvering ...
tl;dr: I think it is possible, if Matt Damon's life depended on it.
@Hobbes's answer is certainly the most reasonable view and likely to be true. But let's look at this from the standpoint of absolute limits.
this answer says in part:
Curiosity... has a rated travel speed of 200 meters per day, but this is mainly due to navigation restrictions ...
Possible, but very likely to cause damage to the spacecraft. Let's look at the lander's systems:
Engines: reusable. InSight uses 20 thrusters of three different models, all built by Aerojet. They all use the same hydrazine monopropellant, and can be restarted. The engines vary from 1,500 to 275,000 duty cycles -- more than enough.
Propellant: maybe ...
Centaur upper stages have a Propellant Utilization (PU) system. While this document is old, the fundamentals apply.
To realize optimum performance in a liquid-fueled bipropellant
space vehicle, it is necessary to control both propellants so
as to deplete them simultaneously. Such a simultaneous
depletion both minimizes ...
Both MarCO cubesats are flying by Mars -- not in orbit. Furthermore, during their radio coverage of InSight's entry/descent/landing, their solar arrays are pointed away from the sun, towards Mars. They are on battery power, and will eventually stop transmitting when the batteries die. Then they will continue passively around the sun.
Let's examine what's already on InSight:
A seismometer (SEIS). It's so sensitive that it is expected to be able to sense windstorms, dust devils, and the tidal forces of Mars' moon. To isolate the sensors from motions of the main body of InSight, SEIS is in its own pod that will be placed a few feet away by a robotic arm, and attached by an umbilical.
All four candidate landing sites were identified in the Elysium Planitia and the most likely landing site (pending final evaluation) will be this one, for providing the smoothest terrain in the landing ellipse:
And this is the context map:
Sources and further reading:
NASA Evaluates Four Candidate Sites for 2016 Mars Mission
Single Site on Mars Advanced ...
To deal with dust storms, two of the changes between Phoenix and InSight are mechanical in nature:
InSight uses a thicker heat shield, partly to handle the possibility of being sandblasted by a dust storm.
InSight’s parachute suspension lines use stronger material.
The words perigee and apogee (and their planet-specific equivalents) show it's impractical to use planet-specific names for everything. The solar system alone has far too many objects to make this practical. Try finding a specific word for 'the apoapsis of 67P-Churiymov-Cherasimenko' for instance.
Geology has a sub-field called planetary geology dedicated ...
No. Mars has complex weather. Just the observation of unpredictable global dust storms shows that there is no persistent weather structure anywhere on Mars. Our global climate models of Mars show significant variability all over the planet in response to orbit and tilt, and variations in dust transport.
As a local example, I recall wind studies we did to ...
MRO uses the Electra software-defined radio:
Electra is a telecommunications package that acts as a communications relay and navigation aid for Mars spacecraft.
Toward the end of the primary science phase, other Mars missions launched in 2007 and beyond will begin to arrive. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will use its Electra UHF radio to support any ...
Successful landers and rovers
Viking 1/2: monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide for the orbiter; hydrazine monopropellant for the lander.
Pathfinder/Sojourner: three solid retrorockets.
MER/Spirit/Opportunity: hydrazine monopropellant.
Phoenix: hydrazine monopropellant.
MSL/Curiosity: hydrazine monopropellant.
InSight: hydrazine monopropellant.
Phoenix (the lander design they largely reused for InSight) vented it's helium pressurisation on landing, before waiting for the dust to settle - it's likely the same was done for InSight -- however "helium vent detected" was a call-out for Phoenix, but wasn't for InSight.
In addition, on Phoenix, the remaining hydrazine was expected to freeze during the ...
Capital, Capital (Block Capitals), j, p, l
"I was thinking what else could we put on there that could be a kind
of code that people in the know could look at and figure out?" said
Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at JPL, in an
interview with collectSPACE. "I thought, 'What about ...
It sure looks like it. At least wind has been ruled out as the cause of this recording:
NASA's InSight Detects First Likely 'Quake' on Mars
NASA's Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely "marsquake."
The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) ...