Monday , October 18 2021

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After a 482 million kilometer journey through space, over six months, NASA's $ 933 million InSight probe closed down safely on Mars early this morning.

Moments before the landing, anxious flight controllers and engineers silently passed around the containers of peanuts, in accordance with a good luck tradition developed at NASA years ago.

As the InSight probe made its way through the rough, dusty weather surrounding Mars, communications back to the Californian space station was completely cut for seven minutes – a period called the 'seven minutes of terror'.

But it seems the peanuts worked their magic, as the successful landing, confirmed just before 7am on Tuesday, saw the space agency's flight controllers and engineers erupt in cheers and applause.

Twitter exploded with scenes of NASA employees, donning maroon shirts, embracing one another and fist-bumping after they received the news that InSight came, safe and sound.

The little probe will now begin digging exploration of the planet.

This expedition marks the first landing on the Red Planet in six years, since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012.

Now, NASA's real work starts, with the small device sending back the first of many pictures from that new home later that morning.

The mission's deputy leader, Doctor Sue Smrekar, said that a successful landing can appear "smooth and easy – like a piece of cake".

But the probe's landing comes after false starts and failed missions by experts to explore Mars.

According to Dr Smrekar, less than half the missions to Mars have actually been successful.

The journey to explore the Red Planet for extraterrestrial life, and more recently, its suitability to host the human race, has been peppered with disasters.

Here are just some of the dead robots, over the last two decades, currently inhabiting Mars' space graveyard:

2016:

Name – Schiaparelli module (Europe)

Outcome – Explosion

The AUD $ 360 million experimental lander, called the Schiaparelli module, is believed to have exploded before crashing on Mars.

The spacecraft was designed and launched by the European Space Agency and, on impact, left a shallow crater on the planet's surface.

Pictures, taken by NASA, revealed that the wreckage had left on a black spot on Mars, approximately 50cm deep and 2.4m wide.

2011:

Name – Yinghuo-1 (China) and Phobos-Grunt (Russia)

Outcome – Equipment failure

Two space exploration orbiters, the Chinese Yinghuo-1 and the Russian Phobos-Grunt, were launched from Kazakstan in November, 2011.

Weighing 150kg, Yinghuo-1, was sent to orbit Mars for a period of two years.

The AUD $ 89 million Phobos-Grunt's mission was to visit the Mars' moon, Phobos, and fly back samples of its soil.

However, on launch, both the Yinghuo-1 and the Phobos-Grunt failed to perform the burns.

The two orbiters re-entered Earth's atmosphere and the disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.

2003:

Name – Beagle 2 (UK)

Outcome – Unknown

The fate of the Beagle 2 remains a mystery to this day but it is assumed that the spacecraft is resting in the graveyard of missions on the Red Planet.

The Mars lander was developed by the British for a joint European mission.

The project was understood to cost around AUD $ 124 million.

While the lander was successfully launched in space, it did not have the scheduled landing time.

The Beagle 2 was considered to have crashed and the European Space Agency announced the mission lost the following year.

1999:

Name – Deep Space 2 and Mars Polar Lander (US)

Outcome – Lost contact

The late 90s were a devastating time for space exploration, with four failed missions recorded in less than two years.

NASA's Deep Space 2 probes were sent to Mars in January, 1999, composing of two tiny probes called 'Scott' and 'Amundsen'.

The mini probes were supposed to detach from the Mars Polar Lander and arrive safely, without the help of a parachute.

However efforts by NASA flight controllers to establish contact with both the lander and the probes were unsubscribed and the mission was declared a failure the following year.

1998:

Name – Mars Climate Orbiter (US)

Outcome – Miscalculation on-ground

This 338kg orbiter was deployed from Cape Canaveral in December, 1998 before an embarrassing metric error caused its death.

The mission, which cost more than AUD $ 450 million, was to study

Due to a calculation glitch back on Earth, the spacecraft approached Mars too too and consequently in disintegrating upon arrival.

Scientists later explained that the Climate Climate Orbiter also came to the Red Planet and burned up in it's atmosphere.

1998:

Name – Nozomi (Japan)

Outcome – Ran out of fuel, electrical failure

The Nozomi spacecraft was launched in July, 1998 from the Uchinoura Space Center in Japan.

It's mission was to examine Martian solar winds to prepare for future missions.

The name 'Nozomi' translate from Japanese to 'hope'.

Ironically, the orbiter was left to hoping for more fuel.

An electric system failure also means Nozomi never made it to the Martian orbit.

1996:

Name – Mars 96 (Russia)

Outcome – Launch failure

Sometimes, it's hard to even get off This was certainly the case for the Mars 96 space probe, destined for Mars.

Engineers from the Russian Space Forces thought that they were corrected from past, but were soon proven wrong following a disastrous launch phase.

The probe launched from Kazakhstan but failed to initiate proper burns to Mars.

The craft then re-entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart, leaving the debris across 320km of Chile, Bolivia and the Pacific Ocean.

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