Room erupts as NASA's Mars probe lands

The Mars In Sight Lander

The Mars In Sight Lander

Landing on the Martian surface is exceedingly hard: Only 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars have been successful - all of those sent by NASA. NASA wanted to wait 16 minutes for the dust to settle before attempting that; it was awaiting word Monday night on how that went.

Practically speaking, InSight is Mars' first geophysicist.

It was NASA's eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. Once deployed on the surface, the HP3 self-penetrating heat flow probe-aptly nicknamed "the mole" -will pound the ground tens of thousands of times to eventually burrow as much as 5 meters below the surface.

"Depending on how large the meteorite impacts are and how far away they are from the lander, it determines how well we can detect them or not", adds Hoffman.

Radio signals confirming the landing took more than eight minutes to cross the almost 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

The InSight team expects a confirmation later Monday that the spacecraft's solar panels successfully deployed. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: "surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase".

Once its heat shield popped off, InSight extended its three landing legs. It is not presently tectonically active, and its volcanoes have been dormant for hundreds of millions of years.

Sight during landing. Image credit NASA

Parachutes and braking engines were used to slow down the three-legged InSight spacecraft.

The plain is near the equator in the northern hemisphere of the Red Planet.

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russian Federation and other countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight.

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square.

But InSight has another camera, attached to its robotic arm, that has allowed it to see its landing site for the first time.

This analysis will by provide an understanding of what the internal structure of Mars looks like, and in turn, an understanding of how it was formed. NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life. It could also help scientists understand what caused Mars, which was made from similar materials as Earth, to become a very different place from our own planet.

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.

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