NASA InSight Lands Successfully on Mars

After traveling for 6 months and covering more than 300 million miles NASA InSight has landed on Mars to the joy and tears of the NASA team. Congratulations to all!

photo of NASA InSight on Mars

NASA InSight Has Landed on Mars

I never get tired of watching these landings – truly thrilling. What an incredible demonstration of teamwork and engineering expertise. The video gets really good around 53 minutes in. The energy in that room is amazing.

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s InSight lander has made it to Mars, but it’ll be a while before the robot is ready to start its science work.

InSight arrived at its new home yesterday afternoon (Nov. 26), acing a touchdown on an equatorial plane called Elysium Planitia. The lander will begin probing the Red Planet’s interior in unprecedented detail — a few months from now.

It’ll take that long for InSight to deploy and calibrate its two main science instruments, a burrowing heat probe and a suite of super-sensitive seismometers. This gear must be placed on the Martian surface by the lander’s robotic arm, and InSight team members want to make sure they get this crucial step — which no other Mars robot has ever done — exactly right.

So, the researchers will spend the next few weeks studying InSight’s landing site carefully, deciding on the best deployment area. Then they’ll practice deployment using a testbed lander here at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages InSight’s mission.

This work will include “terraforming” the testbed to resemble InSight’s actual environs on the Red Planet,  mission instrument operations lead Elizabeth Barrett of JPL said yesterday during a post-landing news conference here.

Barrett likened deployment to a very difficult and high-stakes version of an arcade claw-machine game.

“It makes it a little bit longer — you need to take more pauses, to make sure you actually have the grapple on the payload before you lift it up, and it’s actually on the ground before you let it go,” Barrett said.

“InSight” is short for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.” The lander’s surface mission is scheduled to run for one Mars year, which is nearly two Earth years. It’ll probably take the lander about that long to gather enough data to address its main mission goals, team members have said.

Love the names of these projects.

InSight used radar to land. I did a quick search to see if there was any use of lidar, but came up empty. Perhaps one of you knows better.

For more information click here.

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