NASA InSight lander touches down on Mars, sends back first photo

Pablo Tucker
December 2, 2018

After travelling for nearly seven months and upwards of 300 million miles, NASA's InSight spacecraft finally landed on Mars on 25th November Monday.

A life-size model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, is shown at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018.

InSight began the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) procedure when it reached the Martian atmosphere at 2:47pm ET, 80 miles above the planet's surface. "Also in the dispatch: this snapshot from the lander's arm showing the instruments in their new home".

The US space agency's latest probe, InSight, landed on the planet at 7.55pm (UK time), having travelled for six months and 300 million miles.

On May 5th, NASA launched its InSight Mars lander from California's Vanderberg Air Force Base. One is mounted on the arm; the other on the front of the lander.

Image: Insight will help understand what is happening around the core of Mars.

NASA said the cube-satellites "technology demonstration" worked as planned.

"Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a post-landing press briefing. But before doing that, the craft has to wait for the dust kicked up during landing to settle.

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

Other landers and rovers have looked at the geology of Mars, but InSight is the first mission to investigate the interior structure and composition of the planet.

Almost two dozen other Mars missions have been sent from other nations.

The lander safely touched down on its dusty landing site of Elysium Planitia, near the Red Planet's equator, a region scientists refer to as "vanilla"-not because it is boring per se but because it is flat and free of rocky obstacles that could damage the lander". The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

Now, after years of development, and months of tracking their charge through space, it was finally safe on the surface of Mars, ready to proceed with its groundbreaking science.

"Here's a quick-and-dirty attempt at processing out distortion in the first image from InSight", Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor at the Planetary Society, wrote on Twitter.

Apollo missions to the moon brought seismometers to the lunar surface as well.

Meanwhile, a radio transmitter will send back signals tracking Mars' subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet's core and possibly whether it remains molten.

It could be about three or four months before InSight starts sending back that information, so in the meantime, enjoy the view.

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