CAP CANAVERAL, FLA. – Minutes afterNASA's InSight spacecraft returned a "nice and dirty" snapshot of its new digs. Yet the dust-stained image looked like a work of art for scientists. The photo revealed a mostly smooth, sandy terrain around the probe with only one large visible rock.
Another photo taken by his camera mounted on a robotic arm after landing on the planet shows a close-up of the probe.
"I'm really very happy that it seems like we have an incredibly safe and boring landing place," said project manager Tom Hoffman after Monday's touchdown. "That's exactly what we were looking for."
A better picture came hours later and we expect more in the coming days, after the dust covers will be detached from the cameras of the Lander.
The probe arrived on Mars after a perilous and supersonic dive in its red sky that took only six minutes.
"Touchdown confirmed!" flight controller called just before 3 pm EST, triggering jubilation among scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who had been waiting in anticipation of a white suspense to be heard, in order to to reach 160 million kilometers (160 million kilometers).
The team had reason to celebrate with the challenges facing the spacecraft, CBS News' Bill Harwood reported.
InSight's protective heat shield has withstood temperatures of up to 2700 degrees Fahrenheit. The vehicle "felt" an atmospheric drag force of 7.5 times the force of gravity on Earth and more, while its 39-foot-wide supersonic parachute was inflated to a force of 12,500 pounds per day. square foot.
It was the eighth successful NASA landing on Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. The NASA Curiosity robot, arrived in 2012, is still moving on Mars.
Due to the distance between Earth and Mars, the confirmation took eight minutes, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that followed InSight throughout the six-month trip on a 300-million-mile route (482 million kilometers ).
"Flawless," said Rob Manning, chief engineer of JPL. "Sometimes things work in your favor."
InSight, a billion-dollar international project, includes a German mole that will dig a depth of 5 meters to measure Mars' internal heat. The lander also has a French seismometer to measure earthquakes, if they exist in our smaller and geologically quieter neighbor. Another experiment will calculate the oscillation of Mars to reveal the composition of the planet's nucleus.
Late Monday, NASA announced that the vital solar panels of the spacecraft were open and recharging its batteries.
During the next "soils" – or 24-hour Martian days, 39½ minutes – the flight controllers will evaluate the state of health of the equally important robot arm of InSight and its scientific instruments. It will take months to configure and adjust the instruments, and senior scientist, Bruce Banerdt, said he was not expecting to receive a solid data stream by the end of next spring.
Banerdt said that the first snapshot of InSight on the surface was the first scientific element, although "nice and dirty". He said that the image would be cleaned up and the black spots would disappear. This picture came from a low camera on the undercarriage. Late Monday, NASA released a sharp photo taken by a top camera showing some of the lander and landscape.
The 800-pound InSight (360 kilograms) is stationary and will work in the same place for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year.
"In the months and years to come, history books will be rewritten on the inside of March," said JPL director Michael Watkins.
NASA opted this time for a straightforward and straightforward approach, using a parachute and braking motors to boost the speed of InSight at a speed of 12,300 km / h (19,800 km / h) when it was used. it crossed the Martian atmosphere, about 114 km, at a speed of 5 km / h to the touch. The danger was that the spacecraft could be consumed in the atmosphere or rebound.
Many spacecraft bound for Mars launched by the United States, Russia and other countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of only 40%, not counting InSight.
Three-legged InSight is installed on the west side of Elysium Planitia, the plain NASA was aiming for.
United States museums, planetariums and libraries have organized observational nights to follow the events at the JPL. The cover of NASA TV was also broadcast on the giant screen of Times Square in New York, where the crowd huddled under umbrellas in the rain.
"What a wonderful day for our country," said Jim Bridenstine, who was presiding over his first landing on Mars as NASA's boss.
The well-preserved interior of Mars provides insights into what the Earth might look like since its formation, 4.5 billion years ago, according to Banerdt. While Earth is seismic, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after its formation, he said.
By examining and mapping inside Mars, scientists hope to understand why the rocky planets of our solar system have proved so different and why Earth has become a refuge for life.
Still, there are no life sensors onboard InSight. NASA's next mission, the rover March 2020, will criss-cross the rocks that may contain traces of ancient life. The question of whether life ever existed in the wet and wet past of Mars is what prevents NASA from bringing back the sun to the fourth rock.
After the landing of InSight, the two experimental satellites flew over Mars, their main task being completed. We took one last shot of the red planet that satellite chief engineer Andy Klesh called "Farewell to InSight … farewell to Mars."