NASA's InSight lander successfully reaches Mars

Mars InSight mission: What Nasa's trip to Red Planet aims to discover

No lander has dug deeper on Mars than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on the planet. And the the only country to set a lander down safely on Mars.

While others wondered what the Martians might think of us if they saw the lander on their planet.

After successfully touching down on the Red Planet just before midday PT on November 26, InSight quickly beamed back its first image: a gritty, dust-covered view of the Martian soil.

The spacecraft arrived at Mars after a perilous, supersonic plunge through its red skies that took just six minutes.

NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet after an nearly seven-month, 300-million-mile (458-million-kilometer) journey from Earth. "The best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon".

Each of InSight's two solar wings are 7 feet (2.2 meters) wide.

Insight has twin solar arrays, each capable of extending to a width of 2.2 meters. The lens cover will be removed later this week. The mission's twin relay CubeSat companions, Mars Cube One (MarCO), which have been flying alongside InSight during its interplanetary cruise phase, also successfully fulfilled their mission, transmitting signals from Mars during InSight's EDL back to Earth in near real-time.

It is located about 600km away from its cousin the Curiosity Rover, which has been on the planet since 2012.

"Flawless", declared JPL's chief engineer, Rob Manning. "Sometimes things work out in your favour". The self-hammering mole will burrow five metres down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes. And speaking of the core, the big question among scientists, is it a solid core, a liquid core?

With InSight on Mars, what comes next? "We had one more gift that we could give", Klesh said to applause from the audience in the press conference auditorium as he revealed the image. Using its robotic arm, InSight will pluck SEIS from the lander's top deck to place it carefully on the dusty surface.

The 800-pound InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year.

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. Less than a minute later, InSight cut its parachute free and its 12 retrorockets fired, providing the probe with an additional braking force and allowing it to settle neatly onto the planet's surface. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.

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

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

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square. NASA TV coverage was also shown on the giant screen in New York's Times Square, where crowds huddled under umbrellas in the rain.

InSight has already made the first photo and "selfie". While Earth is active seismically, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after it formed, he said. The mission will help boffins understand the formation of rocky planets, and the Solar System as a whole, explained Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator.

InSight has no life-detecting capability, however.

Over the next two years, we will learn a lot more about Mars and hopefully find answers to such questions as if there are any signs of past life or if Mars now has any liquid water.



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