NASA Spacecraft Lands on Red Planet After 6-Month Journey

27 November, 2018, 07:13 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • NASA Prepares for'Seven Minutes of Terror as In Sight Lander Makes Final Descent to Mars

The suspenseful landing, which followed what engineers described as "seven minutes of terror" as the robot rapidly decelerated from 12,300 to 5 miles per hour, is NASA's first such landing attempt on the Red Planet in six years. It should take about six minutes for InSight to get to the surface and land, slowed by a parachute and descent engines.

U.S. eastern time. When confirmation of the landing came through, mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab erupted in applause and cheers. The seismic waves marsquakes produce will be used by InSight to create a 3-D picture of Mars's interior-but they can also be used to study meteorites thudding into the surface.

What just happened? If you're a fan of all things Mars and space-related, we've got some good news for you.

Members of the mission control team burst into applause and cheered in relief as they received data showing that the spacecraft had survived its perilous descent to the Martian surface.

Like all previous landing attempts at Mars, Insight's race to the surface - the first attempt since 2012 - was a tense affair.

The picture was speckled with dirt because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain around the spacecraft looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible - pretty much what scientists had hoped for.

InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will help scientists understand what is happening around the core of Mars.

InSight acquired this image of the surface of Mars.

Only when these immediate concerns are taken care of can Nasa begin to think about InSight's scientific mission.

The lander set down right on target in what Nasa described as "the biggest parking lot on Mars" - a boring, featureless plain on the equator whose name, ...

InSight robotically guided itself through the landing.

Flight controllers at the USA space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in.

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

"We are solar-powered, so getting the arrays out and operating is a big deal", Hoffman said.

If the instrument establishes that Mars has the remains of a liquid core it will suggest the planet once had a magnetic field that could have shielded early life - before dramatically and mysteriously weakening.

After landing, InSight will unfurl its solar panels and robotic arm and study the entire planet from its parking spot.

An unexpected bonus arrived a few minutes later: The MarCOs transmitted a photo snapped by InSight of its new surroundings.

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". "When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments".

NASA TV featured live-streaming coverage of the landing.



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