NASA's InSight lands on Mars after six-month journey

People at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California celebrate as the In Sight lander touches down on Mars

The InSight mission, launched on May 5, 2018, touched down successfully, to the relief of millions.

NASA's Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander touched down on the Red Planet at approximately 3 pm EST November 26 (1.30am IST on November 27). There was nothing to fear this time, though.

Although NASA emphasized the experimental nature of the cubesats prior to the landing, the MarCO spacecraft performed as intended, receiving the UHF telemetry from InSight during its entry, descent and landing phase and rebroadcasting it at X-band frequencies received by NASA's Deep Space Network. A few minutes later, InSight sent the official "beep" to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed. Mars has an atmosphere thick enough to incinerate or deflect an incoming spacecraft. When InSight collided with Mars' upper atmosphere, it was moving at speeds greater than 12,000 miles per hour. And besides, InSight cares little for the superficialities on the surface; its interest lies far deeper.

The spacecraft is meant to be solar-powered once it reaches the surface of Mars. The atmosphere is thick enough to generate risky heat, but it's not thick enough for parachutes to work all the way down.

InSight, a almost $1.5 billion NZD global venture, reached the surface after going from 19,800 km/h to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines. Forty-five seconds before touchdown, InSight jettisoned its chutes and activated the rockets for a nice, gentle landing.

NASA's InSight lands on Mars after six-month journey

Since 1960, various national space agencies have made 44 similar attempts to land on Mars, but only 18 of those were completely successful, according to NASA. InSight followed up its brief hello with an image of the landing site.

Then, on January 1, the New Horizons probe that flew by Pluto in July of 2015 will reach the distant solar system object Ultima Thule, sending back images taken at close range of the incredibly faraway object. "That's why scientists chose Elysium Planitia as InSight's home". In order to become fully functional, it still has to deploy its solar panels. As long as those work after the tumultuous landing, it should be smooth sailing for InSight.

By examining the interior of Mars, scientists hope to understand how our solar system's rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they turned out so different - Mars cold and dry, Venus and Mercury burning hot, and Earth hospitable to life. The probe is outfitted with a seismometer that will gather data on tremors beneath the Martian surface.

A drill instrument will be used to measure heat flowing from inside the planet.

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