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NASA’s InSight lander arrives on Mars
27 November 2018, 03:45 | Justin Tyler
Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars (VIDEO)
The site is roughly 600km from the 2012 landing spot of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity, the last spacecraft sent to the Red Planet by NASA. 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.
That's the time it takes to enter the thin Martian atmosphere, slow down and land safely. 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. "It's such a hard thing, it's such a unsafe thing that there's always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong".
The mission is seen as a precursor for eventual human exploration of Mars, NASA officials said. All but one of the previous United States touchdowns were successful. No other country has managed to set and operate a spacecraft on the dusty surface.
On Monday afternoon, following "seven minutes of terror", the craft reached its final destination - Elysium Planitia, a flat plain near the Red Planet's equator - where it will now spend the next two years conducting scientific research focused on the planet's interior.
One of the big questions Nasa wants to answer is what made Earth so hospitable to life. Directly measuring the flow of this heat in modern Mars will help alleviate some huge uncertainties in planetary formation models.
The US space agency's robotic lander is on a mission to find out how warm and geologically active the planet is. Another instrument (the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, experiment) will also be placed on the surface, deploying a thermal probe that will drill itself several meters into the surface to measure heat percolating through the planet.
This tool contains a short period seismometer built by Imperial College, Oxford University and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
Minutes after the landing, JPL controllers received a fuzzy photograph of the probe's new surroundings on Martian soil.
"We never take Mars for granted".
"I'll tell you, it was intense, and you could feel the emotion", Bridenstine told Gay Yee Hill, a spokesperson for JPL, during the landing webcast. An on-board seismometer could also help future astronauts setting foot on the Red Planet. It has the largest volcano in the solar system, but we don't yet know if it's dead and dormant or destined to erupt again.
There are significant mysteries here, because while both Mars and the Earth were formed from the same stuff more than 4.5 billion years ago, they are now very different planets.
Horne said the mission could even bring us one step closer towards answering the question of whether aliens exist somewhere out there in the universe. Now that scientist have a pretty solid idea of what's happening on top of the planet, attention has turned to inside and this probe will help give NASA the chance to explore how the planet is made up, from the core outwards.
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