Cape Canaveral – A NASA spacecraft designed to drill down in Mars on Monday, after a perilous, superusynic plunge through its red skies, the scientists in jubilation setting, who have 100 million in the confirmation for white-knuckle suspense in waited miles of space
Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their chairs, screaming, dancing and hugging, upon learning that InSight has arrived on Mars, the graveyard for a multitude of previous missions.
"Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller called out just before 3pm EST, instantly dispelling the anxiety that has gripped the control room as the spacecraft made its six-minute descent
Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of small satellites that had trailing
The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4½ minutes after landing.
The picture was speckled with dirt as the dust cover still still on the lander's camera, but the terrain around the spacecraft looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible – very much what scientists had hoped for Better photos are expected in the days ahead, after the dust covers come off.
It was NASA's – indeed, humanity's – eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. NASA's Curiosity Rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.
"Flawless," declared JPL's chief engineer, Rob Manning. "This is what we really hopeed and imagined in our mind's eye," he added. "Sometimes things work out in your favor."
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first Mars landing as the agency of the boss, said: "What an amazing day for our country."
InSight, a $ 1 billion international project, includes a German mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 meters) to measure Mars' internal heat. The lander also has a French seismometer for measuring quakes, if they are on our small, geologically calmer neighbor. Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the planet's core.
"In the coming months and years even, history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars," said JPL's director, Michael Watkins.
Seven hours after touchdown, NASA reported that InSight's vital solar panels were open and recharging its batteries.
Over the next few "sols" – or Martian days of 24 hours, 39½ minutes – flight controllers will also assess the health of InSight's all-important robot arm and its science instruments.
Many Mars-bound spacecraft launches the U.S., Russia and other countries have lost or destroyed over the years, with just 40 percent of the success rate, InSight counting.
InSight's view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is down below the surface, where it will study Mars' deep interior pic.twitter.com/3EU70jXQJw
– NASA (@NASA)
November 26, 2018
NASA went with its old, straightforward approach this time, using a parachute and braking engines to get InSight's speed from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) when it pierced the Martian atmosphere, about 77 miles (114 kilometers) up, to 5 mph (8km / h) at touchdown The danger was that the spacecraft may be in the environment or bounce off it.
The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for. Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bull's-eye, but NASA did not have the final calculations.
He said that it was hard to tell from the first photo, but there was no slopes nearby, but that he appeared in the flat, smooth "parking lot" he was hoping for.
Museums, planetariums and libraries across the US organized watch parties to watch the events unfold at JPL NASA TV coverage was also shown on the giant screen in New York's Times Square, where crowds under the hoodled under the rain.
The 800-pound (360-kilogram) InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year. It will take months to set up and fine-tune the instruments, and lead scientist Bruce Banerdt said he does not expect to get a stream of solid data until late next spring.
"It's going to be awesome. I can not wait to start seeing marsquakes," Hoffman said.
Mars' well-preserved interior provides a snapshot of what Earth has seen like its formation 4.5 billion years ago, according to Banerdt. While Earth is active seismically, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after it formed, he said.
By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth is the life for the haven.
Still, there are no detectors on InSight NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will be prowl for rocks that contain evidence of ancient life.
The question of whether life has existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.