CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – A few minutes after landing on Mars, NASA'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.
"I am very pleased to see that 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 image came hours later and more is expected in the coming days, after the dust caps of the LG cameras have been removed.
The probe arrived on Mars after a perilous and supersonic dive in its red sky that took only six minutes.
"Touchdown confirmed!", Announced a flight controller shortly before 3 pm. EST, which caused great fright among scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who had been waiting for the white rumor to travel 160 million kilometers (100 million miles).
It was NASA's successful eighth landing on Mars since the 1976 Viking Probe, 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 the internal heat of Mars. The lander also has a French seismometer to measure earthquakes, if they exist in our smaller and geologically quieter neighbor. Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the composition of the planet's core.
NASA announced Monday night that the spacecraft's vital solar panels were open and recharging its batteries.
During the next 39-hour and 39-minute "soils," or Martian days, flight controllers will evaluate the health of InSight's robotic arm 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 coming months and years, the history books on the inside of Mars will be rewritten," 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. NASA TV's coverage was also broadcast on the giant Times Square screen 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 a glimpse of what the Earth might have looked like after 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 March 2020 rover, will search for 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 brings NASA back to the fourth stone of the sun.
After the landing of InSight, the two experimental satellites flew over Mars, their main task being completed. One of them took one last shot of the red planet that satellite chief engineer Andy Klesh called "Farewell to InSight … farewell to Mars".
For full coverage of AP landing by AP: https://apnews.com/MarsLanding
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