NASA's InSight lands on Mars to explore the unknown interior of the planet

NASA's reaction propulsion laboratory mission control broke out amidst applause and applause after touchdown confirmation. The landing was watched around the world and was even broadcast live on the Nasdaq Stock Market tower in Times Square, New York.

At a press conference after the landing of NASA, astronauts from the International Space Station called to congratulate the mission team and tell them that they had "the flesh." hen "looking at the blanket.

"Today, we have successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in the history of humanity," said Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator. "InSight will study the interior of Mars and teach us valuable scientific knowledge as we prepare to send astronauts to the moon and then to Mars.This achievement represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners of the perseverance determination of our team.The best of NASA is coming, and it will arrive soon. "

Bridenstine said that Vice President Mike Pence had called to congratulate the entire team.

InSight, or indoor exploration using seismic surveys, geodesy and heat transport, will explore a part of Mars that we know least about: its deep interior. He launched on May 5th. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where building blocks below the surface of the planet have recorded its history.

To reach Mars, InSight traveled 301,223,981 miles in space, followed by two cubic satellites. The spacecraft the size of a suitcase, called MarCO, is the first satellite cube to fly in deep space. MarCO shared data on InSight when it entered the Martian atmosphere for the landing.

"We have been studying Mars from orbit and since the surface since 1965, learning more about its climate, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry," said Lori Glaze, Acting Director of the Planetary Science Division. NASA Science Mission Directorate. "We will finally explore Mars and deepen our understanding of our earthly neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system."

NASA's InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the undercarriage using its instrument-mounted context camera on the undercarriage.

The first image taken by InSight includes the dust cover still on the lens, which will be removed this week. The black dots are dust and there is a rock in the foreground on the left. To the right is one of the feet of the undercarriage.

MarCO-B took this image of Mars at about 4700 km.

The Cube MarCO satellites also bid farewell to InSight after landing and completing their mission. MarCO-B took a picture of Mars at 4700 km during its flight at 3:10 pm. AND after helping to establish communications with Mission Control regarding the landing.

L & # 39; landing

InSight is robotically guided through the landing. The landing itself is a delicate maneuver. NASA engineers do not call it "seven minutes of terror" for nothing. According to NASA, InSight has slowed down less and less time than it takes to boil an egg, but it has gone from 12,300 mph to 5 mph before landing smoothly on the surface Of March.

"While most of the country was enjoying Thanksgiving with their family and friends, the InSight team was busy preparing for the final preparations for Monday's landing," said Tom Hoffman of JPL, Project Manager at InSight. . "Landing on Mars is difficult and requires a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but the success of InSight deserves the extraordinary effort."

Countdown before Mars: NASA sweats seven minutes of terror.

Only 40% of the missions sent to the Red Planet by an agency have been successful. This is partly due to the low Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of that of the Earth. So there is nothing that can slow down something that is trying to land on the surface.

Like the Phoenix spacecraft, InSight had a parachute and retro rockets to slow down its descent into the atmosphere. Three legs hanging from the landing gear absorbed the shock of the touch on the surface.

But the engineers prepared the spacecraft to land as needed in case of a dust storm.

About 20 minutes before landing, InSight was separated from the cruise stage, which allowed to bring it to Mars and was positioned to enter the atmosphere.

At 14:47 ET, the entry, descent and landing phase began and InSight burst into the atmosphere at 12,300 mph. The advanced heating shield heat shield reached 2700 degrees Fahrenheit two minutes later. It is at this time that the intense heat caused a temporary fall of the ship's radio signal.

Then, the parachute was deployed, the craft separated from the heat shield, deployed its three legs and activated the radar to detect its distance to the ground. After receiving this radar signal, he separated from the rest of the hull and parachute, triggering his descent engines known as re-transporters to help slow him down further.

In the manner of a ballet, InSight performed a gravity turn to make sure the undercarriage was in the right position before landing. He slowed down to reach a constant speed of 5 mph. Then he landed at 14:54. AND.

Just before 3 pm ET, InSight sent a signal for scientists on Earth to know that he is alive and well.

"We reached the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph, and the entire sequence to land on the surface took only 6 and a half minutes," Hoffman said. "During this short period of time, InSight had to perform and do dozens of operations autonomously – and by all indications, that's exactly what our spacecraft did."

Bruce Banerdt of JPL, principal investigator of InSight, said: "It took more than a decade to move InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars – and even longer after the landing, we will have to be patient for the science to begin. "

What happens next?

The two year scientific mission of InSight will not start right away. It will take two or three months robotic arm to place the instruments of the mission on the surface. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's point of view and monitor the environment. Scientific data is not expected until March.

Late Monday, mission scientists were able to confirm that the 7-foot solar panels of the probe had been deployed.

"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight, now that we know that the spacecraft's solar panels are deployed and are recharging the batteries," said Hoffman. "The day was long for the team, but tomorrow begins a new exciting chapter for InSight: the ground operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase."

InSight acquired this image using its arm-mounted instrument deployment camera.

InSight landed at Elysium Planitia, dubbed "the largest parking lot on Mars" by astronomers. Because it will not be moving on the surface, the landing site was an important determination. This place is open, flat, safe and boring, what scientists want for a two-year stationary mission.

NASA chooses an old crater as the next Mars landing site

InSight will deploy its robotic arm and study the entire planet from its parking spot. It is along the Martian equator, bright enough and hot to power the solar generator of the lander all year round.

The suite of geophysical instruments on InSight sounds like a doctor bag, procuring for Mars its first "health check" since its inception. Together, these instruments will measure Mars' vital signs, such as its pulse, temperature and reflexes, which will result in an internal activity such as seismology and the jitter of the planet when the sun and its moons rise on Mars .

These instruments include the seismic experiment for interior structures to determine the causes of the burial of seismic waves on Mars in the package of heat properties and physical properties below the surface and the determination of the heat coming out of the planet. the nucleus of the planet.

"Landing was exciting, but I'm looking forward to drilling," Banerdt said. "When the first images fall, our engineering and scientific teams will start planning the deployment of our scientific instruments, and within two to three months the arm will deploy the mission's main scientific instruments, the Sismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Instruments (HP3). "

In the meantime, the mission for MarCO is over. But this proves that cubic satellites can survive in deep space.

"Every landing on Mars is a daunting challenge, but now, with InSight safely, we need to perform a unique kind of science on Mars," said JPL Director Michael Watkins. "The MarCO CubeSats experimental experiments have also opened a new door to the world's smallest spacecraft.The success of these two unique missions pays tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who have put their genius and their work in the service of the success of this day. "

A previous version of this story cited a NASA speed index suggesting that InSight reached a maximum speed of 6,200 MPH. NASA adjusted its press release to reflect the maximum speed at the entry into the atmosphere, which was 12,300 mph, and this story was changed to reflect this change.

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