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Axios PM – November 26, 2018

The NASA Mars InSight lander landed on Mars this afternoon, delivering a robotic geologist who will explore the interior of the red planet.

Why it's important: How could you not be excited by the fact that we were successfully landing on a rock 300 million miles away?

Driving the news:

  • InSight is not on the red planet to look for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Instead, it will be the first spacecraft to penetrate into the depths of Mars and scientists hope that the data collected will give it clues to the formation and evolution of planets, notes Andrew Freedman of Axios. .
  • "By studying Mars, InSight would illuminate the oldest evolution of rocky planets, including the Earth, "NASA said in a fact sheet of the mission.

The big picture: NASA has made eight of its attempts on Mars over the last four decades, while no other country has managed to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of Mars.


  • The operation was managed by NASA, with France and Germany contributing to the payload.
  • InSight only had six minutes to slow down at a stop of 12,300 miles per hour.
  • A supersonic parachute and retro-rocket propellers have been working to slow it down enough for a soft three-legged landing.
  • Previous landings techniques used such as Bouncing ball-like structures and a service car, in which a descent step slows down in hover and lowers the ground rover.
  • A first grainy photo of the landing gear had already been sent back to Earth. Scientists are still waiting for confirmation from NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, which orbits around the planet, that InSight's solar panels have been deployed.
  • The mission also sent two ultra-small satellites to hang out the undercarriage. They will serve as relay stations and will be the first satellites of this type in deep space.

Between the lines: These missions take place during a period of renewed interest in space exploration.

  • Perhaps the most striking example is Elon Musk's SpaceX: The entrepreneur told "Axios on HBO" that he had a 70% chance that he personally traveled to Mars.
  • But Musk is not alone. The United Arab Emirates want to have a craft in orbit around Mars in 2021, while an Israeli company wants to land on the Moon next year.
  • The bumps of Jeff Bezos of Amazon (blue origin) to Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) have their own businesses, while smaller national players like India and Saudi Arabia are also trying to get started.

Go further: Read the special deep dive on the space of Axios, published in October

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