NASA’s In Sight Spacecraft Successfully Touches Down on Mars 26 Nov 2018
27 November, 2018, 06:14
A NASA spacecraft has landed on Mars to explore the planet's interior. It launched May 5.
A photograph that was sent 91 million miles across the universe heralded a significant triumph for Nasa last night as its $1 billion InSight lander touched down safely on Mars.
NASA's $850 million InSight mission is created to probe the interior of Mars with a seismometer, heat probe and other instruments to study how the planet formed.
The US space agency's robotic lander is on a mission to find out how warm and geologically active the planet is.
The Mission Control team announced the rover had successfully touched down following a tense few-minute wait.
The journey to Mars has been described by NASA engineers as "seven minutes of terror", as more landers have failed than have succeeded. 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".
The friction as Insight traveled through the atmosphere generated intense heat, but the spacecraft's heat shield allowed the lander to withstand temperatures up to 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
Its ultra-sensitive seismometer (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS, experiment) will detect seismic waves rippling through Mars and, by measuring their propagation through the subsurface, will assemble a detailed picture of Mars's interior for the first time.
"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.
He said it was a little unusual to realize that by the time word arrived, history had already been made eight minutes earlier because of the lag in communication between Mars and Earth.
In addition to the InSight telemetry, one of the cubesats, MarCO-B, returned an image of Mars taken shortly after the landing, as the spacecraft was passing 6,000 kilometers from the planet.
An American spacecraft has successfully reached Mars after nearly seven months travelling through space, allowing scientists to understand more about the planet's interior.
Apollo missions to the moon brought seismometers to the lunar surface as well.
NASA officials say InSight's instruments should be up and running in about two or three months.
"But even after landing, we'll need to be patient for the science to begin", Bruce Banerdt of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, InSight's principal investigator, said in a statement. "We can take a smaller, focused, more riskier mission out into the solar system and take advantage of new opportunities".
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.
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Last week the space agency announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 Rover will land on the Red Planet. Everyone sighed with relief, but today NASA is doing it all over again, only this time with the InSight lander .
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