ibusinesslines.com December 09, 2018

Touchdown! NASA InSight Has Landed On Mars

02 December 2018, 07:29 | Justin Tyler

A first image from a dust covered camera on the Insight Mars probe

A first image from a dust covered camera on the Insight Mars probe

November 26 at 2:54 ET, NASA's InSight lander touched down successfully on the martian surface.

After seven months and more than 300 million miles, the billion-dollar mission overcame its most challenging hurdle.

Its 77-mile descent was then slowed by atmospheric friction, and a giant parachute and retro rockets were ejected, bringing the three-legged spacecraft to a gentle landing six and a half minutes later.

The picture was speckled with dirt because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain at first glance looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible - pretty much what scientists had hoped for.

It's been six years since NASA successfully landed the Curiosity rover on Mars. "We can use Mars as a time machine, to look back at the first few tens of millions of years after it was formed, and understand why the Earth became the way it is", Banerdt said. The space agency said that in the interim the spacecraft had opened its solar panels, which allowed it to recharge its batteries for the mission.

A seismometer - which will "listen" for tremors - was designed by a team at Imperial College London. So they will be able to determine that as well.

Meanwhile, a radio transmitter will send back signals tracking Mars' subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet's core and possibly whether it remains molten.

The Insight probe with its main experiments deployed
The Insight probe with its main experiments deployed

It will help explain how all rocky planets, including the Earth, evolved. No lander has dug deeper than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on Mars.

Quakes are a familiar feature of our tectonically active Earth.

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. "It was intense, and you could feel the emotion", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a NASA livestream about the landing's success. "But some of those measurements don't agree with that; they indicate that Mars is composed of less chondritic material and its interior should be a lot colder than our models predict".

It took the InSight team about four to five years to design and execute the mission, InSight project manager Tom Hoffman said.

"Mars, although it may have started off in a similar place, is now certainly very different".

And besides, InSight cares little for the superficialities on the surface; its interest lies far deeper.

News of the solar array milestone came with a spectacular photo of Mars by InSight showing a view of the robot's Elysium Planitia landing site as seen from the deck of the spacecraft.

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