Astronaut Mike Massimino and NASA's Mars Insight mission

Pablo Tucker
November 30, 2018

The mission will last for one Martian year (the time it takes for Mars to complete one orbit of the sun), which equates to 26 Earth months. These initial images are grainy because the dust shields haven't been removed from the camera lenses yet.

But scientists did not expect to verify successful deployment of the solar arrays for at least several hours.

"Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller called out just before 3 p.m. EST, setting off jubilation among scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who had waited in white-knuckle suspense for word to reach across 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) of space.

NASA's InSight lander opens a window into the "inner space" of Mars. The photo was captured after solar panels fruitfully convoluted from its sides so that its batteries can be charged and was transmitted through the Mars Odyssey orbiter that hovers around the planet and transmits the messages back to the Earth.

On clear days, the panels will provide InSight with between 600 and 700 watts, which is roughly enough to power a standard kitchen blender. InSight will also send a "tone beacon" when it touches down on Mars, and again seven minutes later, but much more loudly.

In addition to his duties as co-investigator on the mission's science team, Banfield is serving as the lead on the atmospheric pressure sensor instrument group and co-chair of the atmospheric working group.

This whole unpacking process as InSight settles into its new home will take about two to three months as the instruments begin functioning and sending back data.

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 sensitive instruments are able to obtain their best measurements in direct contact with the Martian surface. Its probe to measure heat flow five meters below Mars' surface was made in Germany and Poland, its weather station in Spain and its laser reflector, which will be used for precision longitude, latitude and altitude measurements, in Italy.

We officially have pictures of the Mars surface. It will use a robotic arm, and a drill, to collect rocks and soil samples from Jezero Crater just north of the Martian equator, and if it finds anything interesting, it will leave it in a box for a possible future "sample return" mission, possibly by humans. The temperature of the planet will be measured while another experiment will try to determine how Mars wobbles on its axis. However, this probe will focus on Mars' interior, trying to understand its core.

InSight's first photo of Mars shows dust speckled on the transparent dust cover that was over the camera.

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