NASA’s InSight rover lands on Mars: All you need to know

Michele Stevens
November 27, 2018

InSight and MarCO flight controllers monitored and cheered for the spacecraft's successful entry, descent and landing from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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

"Touchdown confirmed", a mission control operator at NASA said, as pent-up anxiety and excitement surged through the room, and dozens of scientists leapt from their seats to embrace each other.

NASA officials say it will take 2 to 3 months for the main instruments to be deployed and put into operation. Bridenstine also said President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had watched on television and called to congratulate the USA space agency for its hard work.

InSight's first photo from the martian surface.

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.

The principal investigator on the French seismometer, Philippe Lognonne, said he was "relieved and very happy" at the outcome. The other, mounted on the robotic arm, is the one that will provide full-color panoramic imagery with a field of view of about 45 degrees. While we wait for everything to get set up, InSight will snap pictures of the surface of Mars and send them back to NASA.

A post-launch press conference is planned for 2200 GMT. Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bull's-eye, but NASA did not have yet have the final calculations.

"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".

"We've studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry", Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a news release. But every landing on Mars is risky and we were waiting nervously at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to get the first signal back from the successful landing.

The first image from InSight
Source NASA

"MarCO was there to relay information back from InSight in real time, and we did that extraordinarily well", said Andy Klesh, MarCO chief engineer, at a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here November 26 two hours after the InSight landing.

A carefully orchestrated sequence - already fully preprogrammed on board the spacecraft - unfolded over the following several minutes, coined "six and a half minutes of terror".

It's the first spacecraft built to explore the deep interior of another world, carrying instruments to detect planetary heat and seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but earth.

It is powered by two solar panels and carries a seismometer, heat probe and a radio science experiment.

The $1 billion worldwide mission features a German-led mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet to measure the planet's internal heat.

Spain´s Centro de Astrobiologia made the spacecraft´s wind sensors.

InSight's primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, created to record the slightest vibrations from "quakes" and meteor impacts around the planet.

About 20 minutes before landing, InSight will separate from the cruise stage that helped bring it all the way to Mars and turn to position itself for entering the atmosphere.

All of this comes out over the next year or so on Mars.


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