WATCH: Cheers, hugs as NASA's InSight lands on Mars

2018-11-27 07:37

Cheers and applause erupted at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday as a waist-high unmanned lander, called InSight, touched down on Mars, capping a nearly seven-year journey from design to launch to landing.

The dramatic arrival of the $993m spacecraft - designed to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet's inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape - marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in NASA's history.

"Touchdown confirmed," a mission control operator at NASA said, as pent-up anxiety and excitement surged through the room, and dozens of scientists leapt from their seats to embrace each other. "It was intense and you could feel the emotion," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, in an interview on NASA television afterward.

Bridenstine also said President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had watched on television and called to congratulate the US space agency for its hard work. "Ultimately, the day is coming when we land humans on Mars," Bridenstine said, adding that the goal is to do so by the mid 2030s.

The vehicle appeared to be in good shape, according to the first communications received from the Martian surface.But as expected, the dust kicked up during the landing obscured the first picture InSight sent back, which was heavily flecked.

'We never take Mars for granted'

France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) made the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, the key element for sensing quakes.The principal investigator on the French seismometer, Philippe Lognonne, said he was "relieved and very happy" at the outcome. "I've just received confirmation that there are no rocks in front of the lander," he told AFP.

And in a final crucial phase, NASA said InSight signalled to Earth that its solar panels - twin solar arrays spanning seven feet (2.2 meters) in width - had opened and were collecting sunlight on the surface of Mars.

"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries," said Tom Hoffman, InSight's project manager.- Entry, descent, landing -The spacecraft is NASA's first to touch down on Earth's neighboring planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012.

More than half of 43 attempts to reach Mars with rovers, orbiters and probes by space agencies from around the world have failed. NASA is the only space agency to have made it, and is invested in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first Mars-bound human explorers in the 2030s.

"We never take Mars for granted. Mars is hard," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the science mission directorate, said on Sunday. The nail-biting entry, descent and landing phase began at 19:40 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home to mission control for Mars InSight, and ended one second before 19:53.

A carefully orchestrated sequence - already fully preprogrammed on board the spacecraft - unfolded over the following several minutes, coined "six and a half minutes of terror". Speeding faster than a bullet at 19 800km an hour, the heat-shielded spacecraft encountered scorching friction as it entered the Mars atmosphere.

The heat shield soared to a temperature of about 1 500 Celsius before it was discarded, the three landing legs deployed and the parachute popped out, easing InSight down to the Martian surface.- Goal: 3D map of inner Mars -InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.

France's CNES made the SEIS instrument, while the German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a self-hammering mole that can burrow five metres into the surface - farther than any instrument before - to measure heat flow.Spain's Centro de Astrobiologia made the spacecraft's wind sensors, and three of InSight's seismic instruments were designed and built in Britain.

Other significant contributions came from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika and the Swiss Institute of Technology.

"It is wonderful news that the InSight spacecraft has landed safely on Mars," said Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency. Together, the instruments will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

By listening for tremors on Mars, whether from quakes or meteor impacts or even volcanic activity, scientists can learn more about its interior and reveal how the planet formed.The goal is to map the inside of Mars in three dimensions, "so we understand the inside of Mars as well as we have come to understand the outside of Mars", Banerdt told reporters.


Read more on:    nasa  |  mars  |  good news  |  space
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

IT Manager (contract)

Cape Town CBD
Communicate Cape Town IT
R330 000.00 - R458 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.