Touchdown! NASA InSight Has Landed On Mars

30 November, 2018, 07:43 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Mars InSight mission: What Nasa's trip to Red Planet aims to discover

Touchdown on Mars NASA's InSight lander has endured nearly seven months in space, traveling over 300 million miles (480 million kilometers) in a carefully calculated path from Earth to Mars.

The very first image returned by NASA InSight, from Elysium Planitia, post-landing.

Vice President Mike Pence called with his congratulations right away, Bridenstine added.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s InSight spacecraft on Monday touched down safely on Mars, kicking off its two-year mission as the first spacecraft created to explore the deep interior of another world.

The landing data and initial photograph were relayed to Earth from two briefcase-sized satellites that were launched along with InSight and were flying past Mars as it reached its destination.

"In the coming months and years even, history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars", said JPL's director, Michael Watkins. The picture was speckled with dirt because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain at first glance looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible - pretty much what scientists had hoped for.

NASA scientists are nervously waiting to see if a spacecraft that spent the past six months travelling nearly 500 million kilometres to Mars will survive its perilous descent and land softly Monday on the Red Planet.

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I feel you, #Mars - and soon I'll know your heart.

InSight, a $1 billion worldwide venture, reached the surface after going from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines. No lander has dug deeper on Mars than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on the planet.

The $1 billion worldwide effort calls for the robotic geologist to explore Mars' mysterious interior.

The 800-pound InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year.

The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in nearly real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4 minutes after landing. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: "surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase". Principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said: "The reason why we're digging into Mars is to better understand not just Mars, but the Earth itself". This will allow researchers to obtain more information about how was formed the rocky celestial body in the Solar system.

"[The mission] will tell us the difference between Mars and the Earth, and that's fundamental in terms of understanding what has made the Earth's evolution so specific that it harboured life".

But the United States has pulled off seven successful landings on the planet in the past four decades - with only one failed touchdown. The researchers will run simulations on their model at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory before sending instructions to InSight. The mission follows in the footsteps of the Curiosity rover, which landed there in 2012, but the $1bn joint US-European mission will break new ground - literally and metaphorically.

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