NASA's InSight probe has landed on Mars


InSight team members celebrate after the successful landing

Except that instead of celebrating the heroic and unlikely rescue of Matt Damon, the cheers were for NASA's InSight lander, a spacecraft created to spend the next two years studying Mars, which had successfully parachuted to the surface of the planet. With the nail-biting part of the mission over, what comes next?

After a 205-day journey through space that covered 300 million miles, NASA's three legged InSight probe descended safely after a final, intricate seven minute maneuver on the red planet Mars to whoops of joy at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and enthusiasts around the world following live, edge-of-the-seat action on social media platforms.

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Mission Control and the nearby von Karman Auditorium, the voices of engineers, scientists, media representatives and attendees from social media joined together in an eruption of cheers! That's why scientists chose Elysium Planitia as InSight's home, according to NASA. You can see more wonderful InSight Mars landing day photos here.

"A huge number of different operations have to be automatically programmed and achieved, and a very tiny difference in one of them could break something and make it immediately a failure", says French astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Bibring. By analyzing subtle frequency shifts in radio transmissions between InSight and the DSN, scientists will be able to measure just how fast the lander is moving relative to Earth.

"In the coming months and years even, history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars", said JPL's director, Michael Watkins.

Practically speaking, InSight is Mars' first geophysicist.

There was no immediate word on whether the lander was in good working order.

The image was marred by specks of debris on the camera cover. There are, however, a few major steps that InSight will take, going forward. But before doing that, the craft has to wait for the dust kicked up during landing to settle. Due to a global dust storm, which only recently abated, dust has been redistributed over almost the entire surface of Mars.

InSight acquired this image of the surface of Mars. This was the area in front of the lander
InSight acquired this image of the surface of Mars. This was the area in front of the lander

Minutes after touching down on Mars, NASA's InSight spacecraft sent back a "nice and dirty" snapshot of its new digs.

While InSight will have its solar panels deployed very soon after landing, getting its instruments online and collecting data will take much longer.

In the following days, NASA's InSight is expected to conduct a self-audit of all its scientific instruments on board, and survey the martian surface for an optimal site to deploy these instruments.

It is noted that the InSight mission will last two years, this time he will collect data about the internal structure and composition of Mars.

Like SEIS, though, this instrument is also now stowed on the lander deck.

"Insight" transmits information to the Ground via orbital probes MRO and Odissey. Only about 40 percent of missions sent to Mars have been successful. "We know a lot of about its surface, its atmosphere and ionosphere, but not a lot about the first two miles of Mars' crust", the scientists said.

The mission is far from boring, however.

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