Cheers as $993m Mars InSight spacecraft lands on Red Planet

Jo Lloyd
November 27, 2018

A NASA spacecraft has landed on Mars to explore the planet's interior.

A series of instruments, including a drill that can bury down several feet, will be used to measure the internal temperature of Mars and the wobble of its poles. NASA hasn't committed to a MarCO-like mission for its next Mars lander, the Mars 2020 rover, but Klesh said the success of MarCO has opened the door to that and other uses of smallsats in deep space.

This photo provided by NASA shows the first image acquired by the InSight Mars lander after it touched down on the surface of Mars Monday, Nov. 26, 2018.

NASA went with its old, straightforward approach this time, using a parachute and braking engines to get InSight's speed from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) when it pierced the Martian atmosphere, about 77 miles (114 kilometers) up, to 5 mph (8kph) at touchdown.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported Monday afternoon that its InSight lander successfully landed on Mars following a 7-minute descent to the Red Planet's surface.

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. Part of this is due to the thin Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of Earth's, so there's nothing to slow down something trying to land on the surface.

After sailing 301 million miles on a six-month voyage through deep space, InSight touched down on Mars at about 2000 GMT.

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

NASA engineers were forced to wait until the landing was over to know if it was successful, though, as there's an eight minute delay in communications between Mars and Earth, and the landing only took about seven minutes.

InSight, a almost $1.5 billion NZD worldwide venture, reached the surface after going from 19,800 km/h to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines. "With that, we're actually doing atmospheric science as we're passing by Mars, and we'll be digging through that data as well", Klesh said.

The first picture taken by InSight during landing.

Nasa's mission control in California erupted with delight when it became clear InSight was safe on the ground. NASA's Mars Odyssey will then fly overhead to confirm that the panels are out.

The MarCO primary mission will last about two more weeks, he said.

The question of whether life ever existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.

The JPL controllers also expected to receive a photograph of the probe's surroundings close to the planet's equator, Elysium Planitia. The mission will help boffins understand the formation of rocky planets, and the Solar System as a whole, explained Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator.

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