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NASA’s Spacecraft InSight Successfully Lands on Mars

The agency called the final moments of the approach 'seven minutes of terror' — then came jubilation

Image Credit: AL SEIB / Getty Images and Facebook, NASA

Six months and upwards of 300 million miles later, the Mars InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) Lander successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet on Monday.

Just after 2:40 p.m. in the afternoon of November 26, the Lander (shown above left) entered the atmosphere of Mars — and it successfully established itself on the surface around 2:54 p.m. EST.

NASA dubbed the final moments leading up to the landing as “seven minutes of terror,” as scientists had to sit back and trust in the algorithm’s ability to effectively guide, and ultimately, land the robotic spacecraft, as Fox News and other outlets noted.

The apprehensive scientists verified that their algorithm required no additional alterations.

They could only watch as the $828 million InSight settled onto the surface of Mars — and then came the celebrations.

“We can’t joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-program into the spacecraft. We’ve spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us,” commented Rob Grover, InSight’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) lead, in a November 21 statement.

“And we’re going to stay vigilant until InSight settles into its home in the Elysium Planitia region,” concluded Grover from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Because the InSight Lander encountered extreme speeds, forces, and temperatures upon its arrival, NASA chose the Elysium Planitia to be the landing site, due to its “vanilla ice cream”-like characteristics: It’s flat and featureless.

Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters, detailed InSight’s mission now that the secure landing has occurred.

“Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars’ deep interior — information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home,” said Glaze, as Fox News noted.

Constructed by Lockheed Martin, the unmanned probe, which took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5, 2018, is designed to penetrate deeper into the Martian planet than other craft have in the past.

The spacecraft is the first of the space agency’s to reach Mars since the arrival of the Curiosity Rover — the only other craft currently operating on the Red Planet — in August 2012.

The space agency also announced last week that it has chosen the site at which the Mars 2020 Rover will land. The expected landing date is Feb. 18, 2021.

Deployed in July of 2003, NASA’s Opportunity Rover was deemed ineffectual after a suspected series of faults due to a dust storm that struck within the past year.

The last signal from that craft was received on June 10, 2018.

The space agency also announced last week that it’s chosen the site at which the Mars 2020 Rover will land. The expected landing date is Feb. 18, 2021.

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned craft to Mars, supposedly sometime in the 2030s.

To get a sense of the excitement at InSight’s mission control, check out NASA’s website.

And check out this video:

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