NASA's InSight probe has landed on Mars

Carlton Robbins
November 27, 2018

Scientists from across the world hailed NASA's latest achievement as one of its kind, and highlighted that the InSight's goals and achievements should not be compared to other previous missions to explore the red planet.

What will NASA's Mars InSight lander study? NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life.

Why was Mars chosen for landing?

Mars' well-preserved interior provides a snapshot of what Earth may have looked like following its formation 4.5 billion years ago, according to Banerdt. Mars stopped changing, while Earth continued to evolve.

It will spend the next 24 months - about one Martian year - collecting a wealth of data to unlock mysteries about how Mars formed and, by extension, the origins of the Earth and other rocky planets of the inner solar system.

NASA once again made space history on Monday with the successful landing of the InSight mission onto the surface of Mars. In less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, InSight slowed from 12,300 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour before it gently landed on the surface of Mars, according to NASA.

The pioneering mission will also mark a milestone in this nation's space industry because it could be the very first time British technology has survived a journey to the Red Planet. "It was intense, and you could feel the emotion", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the NASA landing Livestream about the landing success. "It's such a hard thing, it's such a unsafe thing that there's always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong".

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

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Along with the spacecraft, a pair of mini satellites known as Mars Cube One, or MarCO for short, trailing InSight since its inception also reached Mars.

After waiting in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive from space, flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in that the three-legged InSight spacecraft had successfully touched down.

InSight acquired this image of the surface of Mars. "This image is really our farewell to InSight, our wish for good luck and a farewell for Mars itself as we continue on said Andrew Klesh, the chief engineer for the CubeSats".

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. You can see more awesome InSight Mars landing day photos here. Two complementary engineering cameras help with navigation and hazard avoidance. This was the area in front of the lander.

Later Monday, mission scientists should be able to confirm that the spacecraft's solar arrays have unfurled. Instead, the stationary 360-kilogram (800-pound) lander will use its 1.8-meter (6-foot) robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground.

InSight, a $1 billion worldwide project, includes a German mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 meters) to measure Mars' internal heat. The lander's instruments include a seismometer to detect "Marsquakes" and a probe to monitor the flow of heat beneath the surface of the planet.

The InSight SEIS-SP seismometer is one of the most sensitive and challenging instruments we have worked on for spaceflight in Oxford.

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