Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars

Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars (VIDEO)

NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Lands Successfully On Mars After 300-Million-Mile Journey

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. Updates were coming in via radio signals that take more than eight minutes to cross the almost 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

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. Here's a look at some of the most exciting reactions. America isn't good at everything; but we're very, very good at Mars-and that is, and very much ought to be, a source of national uplift. NASA hasn't committed to a MarCO-like mission for its next Mars lander, the Mars 2020 rover, but Klesh said the success of MarCO has opened the door to that and other uses of smallsats in deep space.

"It's taken more than a decade to bring InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars - and even longer since I was first inspired to try to undertake this kind of mission".

"Flawless", declared JPL's chief engineer, Rob Manning. "This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye", he added. "Sometimes things work out in your favor".

The first picture taken by InSight during landing.

The first image has already been beamed down Earth by the lander.

InSight will be landing at Elysium Planitia, called "the biggest parking lot on Mars" by astronomers.

Just before 8pm, the lander will either touch down softly on the Red Planet or crash and burn disastrously.

Flight controllers were relieved to find out promptly that Insight made it to the surface and didn't burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it. All but one of the previous US touchdowns were successful.

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square.

Reuters               Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory celebrate
Reuters Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory celebrate

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a self-hammering mole that can burrow 16 feet (five meters) into the surface - further than any instrument before - to measure heat flow. No lander has dug deeper than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on Mars.

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

The craft's solar array motors will warm up and prepare to unfurl the solar panels.

But the engineers prepared the spacecraft to land during a dust storm if need be. The instruments will have to be set up and fine-tuned.

XQc probably could have picked a better example than the Moon Landing, where radio signals had to travel roughly 238,900 miles from the Moon to Earth with equipment available nearly 50 years ago.

"Going to Mars is really, really hard".

This means marsquakes are more likely to be caused by other forms of tectonic activity, including volcanism and cracks forming in the planet's crust.

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 became a haven for life.

InSight has no life-detecting capability, however. NASA will also monitor radio pulses from InSight as a way to track Mars' rotation and wobble, which could help us understand its internal structure.

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