Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Research | By Wilma Wheeler

InSight Has Landed! Inside the Dramatic Touchdown

InSight Has Landed! Inside the Dramatic Touchdown

The picture provided proof of activity from the lander after a seven-month journey to the red planet capped by "six and a half minutes of terror" as it plunged through the Martian atmosphere, enduring temperatures up to 1,648C (3,000F), brutal gravitational forces and complex engineering challenges.

InSight should land on a sandy area of Mars, where it will take readings on the heat of the core, up to five metres below the surface. During the entry, descent and landing phase, the probe was tracked for the first time with a pair of small satellites the size of briefcases created to send data signals back to Earth more quickly.

"Touchdown confirmed", a mission control operator said as cheers erupted and scientists leapt from their seats to hug each other at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The twin "Cubesats" tagging along for the flight to Mars represented the first deep-space use of a miniature satellite technology that space engineers see as a promising low-priced alternative to some larger, more complex vehicles.

"He watched the whole thing, he is absolutely ecstatic about our programme, as you're aware he's the chairman of the National Space Council, and he's been a keen advocate of what we do and to have him call within seconds of mission success is incredible".

After months in space, the NASA InSight probe has successfully touched down on Mars.

A NASA spacecraft is just a few hours away from landing on Mars.

Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars (VIDEO)

The US, however, has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades, not counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown.

The dark flecks in the image that resemble nothing so much as bacteria on a microscope slide are dust and debris kicked up by the lander's engines, clinging to the semi-transparent cover. "Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system". Although InSight will also have an onboard weather station and suite of cameras, the mission's focus is on peeling back the profound mysteries of the Martian interior.

The goal is to map the inside of Mars in three dimensions, "so we understand the inside of Mars as well as we have come to understand the outside of Mars", Banerdt told reporters. They will have to decide exactly where and when to deploy the InSight's instruments, and test all their commands on ForeSight, a replica of the lander housed at JPL. The team was extremely happy with the landing, as you can see in the tweet below. While surveying the landing site during the planning phase of InSight's mission, scientists studied the ejecta from small impact craters scattered across Elysium Planitia. "I can't wait to start seeing marsquakes", Hoffman said.

The first picture taken by InSight during landing.

InSight will unfurl its solar panels and robotic arm and study the entire planet from its parking spot. "When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments".

The NASA Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

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