NASA InSight nails Mars landing after scary six minutes

NASA InSight nails Mars landing after scary six minutes

Mars: Nasa lands InSight robot to study planets interior

Mars looks like a dusty wasteland in the first photo from NASAs InSight lander sent from the surface of the red planet.

The image, taken moments after landing, shows the rust-colored surface of Mars from InSights perspective through a fisheye lens. 

NASA officials, from left, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, and Bruce Banerdt celebrate after the Mars landing of InSight at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Engineer Kris Bruvold, bottom center, celebrates as the InSight lander touch downs on Mars in the mission support area of the space flight operation facility at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/(Al Seib /Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) This photo provided by NASA shows the first image acquired by the InSight Mars lander after it touched down on the surface of Mars Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Debris kicked up by the landers rockets covers the cameras protective shield, which will later be removed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP) This illustration made available by NASA in October 2016 shows an illustration of NASAs InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars. NASAs InSight spacecraft will enter the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speed, then hit the brakes to get to a soft, safe landing on the alien red plains. After micromanaging every step of the way, flight controllers will be powerless over what happens at the end of the road, nearly 100 million miles away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP In this image provided by NASA, Mars InSight team members Kris Bruvold, left, and Sandy Krasner rejoice, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, inside the Mission Support Area at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP) Engineers celebrate as the InSight lander touch downs on Mars in the mission support area of the space flight operation facility at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/(Al Seib /Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Engineers embrace after the Mars landing of InSight in the mission support area of the space flight operation facility at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) A image transmitted from Mars by the InSight lander is seen on a computer screen at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA via AP) Explore further: Anxiety abounds at NASA as Mars landing day arrives

The photo looks particularly obscured because the camera still has its dust-covered protective covering on it, according to NASA. 

An engineer smiles next to an image of Mars sent from the InSight lander shortly after it landed on Mars in the mission support area of the space flight operation facility at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) “It really depends on how benevolent Mars is feeling, how many marsquakes it throws at us,” Banerdt said Sunday. “The more marsquakes, the better. We just love that shaking, and so the more shaking it does, the better we can see the inside.”

“InSights view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is below the surface, where it will study Mars deep interior,” NASA said in a tweet.

“Fortnite dance confirmed” as NASA celebrates InSight landing with slick routine

Its pretty incredible that we already have a photo from InSight back on Earth, and its all thanks to two tiny satellites sent to Mars with the spacecraft. 

The $1 billion international mission features a German-led mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 meters) to measure the planets internal heat. Nothing has ever dug deeper into Mars than several inches. The lander also has a French-made seismometer for measuring quakes, if they exist on our smaller, geologically calmer neighbor.

The two small MarCO satellites beamed back data to mission controllers throughout InSights picture-perfect landing on Mars, allowing NASA to follow along with the spacecrafts descent to the surface. 

NASA went with its old, straightforward approach this time, using a parachute and braking engines to get InSights speed from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) when it pierced the Martian atmosphere, about 77 miles (114 kilometers) up, to 5 mph (8kph) at touchdown. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.

Nasas Mars InSight probe touches down on red planet

“Weve studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry,” NASAs acting director of the planetary science division Lori Glaze said in a statement. 

Video: Lockheed Martin Staff Anxiously Watching Insight Landing

“Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system.”

Lead scientist Bruce Banerdt warned it will be a slow-motion mission. The instruments will have to be set up and fine-tuned. He said he doesnt expect to start getting a stream of solid data until late next spring, and it may take the entire mission to really get the goods.

📸 Wish you were here! @NASAInSight sent home its first photo after #MarsLanding:InSights view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is below the surface, where it will study Mars deep interior. pic.twitter.com/3EU70jXQJw

The spacecrafts instruments will gather data about how Mars formed by looking below its surface and mapping the planets interior.

The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for. Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bulls-eye, but NASA did not have yet have the final calculations.

But before any of that, NASA needs to be sure that InSight has unfurled its solar panels and its charging itself. That confirmation should come through in the next few hours, if all goes according to plan.

Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that had been trailing InSight throughout the six-month, 300-million-mile (482-million-kilometer) journey.

The lander came to a rest on the dusty surface shortly before 8pm GMT on Monday after a nail-biting descent that started when the spacecraft slammed into the Martian atmosphere at 12,300mph and ended minutes later with the probe settled on the ground, its thrusters quiet.

Museums, planetariums and libraries across the U.S. held viewing parties to watch the events unfold at JPL. NASA TV coverage was also shown on the giant screen in New Yorks Times Square, where crowds huddled under umbrellas in the rain.

InSight has landed (UPDATED)

Mission scientists cheered, hugged and fist-bumped at Nasas Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California when the lander beamed home signals of its arrival on the planet. It was intense; you could feel the emotion, said Jim Bridenstine, Nasas administrator. What a day for Nasa.

Read more InSights landing spot, Elysium Planitia, is one of the most boring places on the alien world: a vast, smooth lava plain that the US space agency calls the biggest parking lot on Mars. But a featureless, and hopefully quiet, landscape is precisely what InSight needs for its mission to map the interior of the planet.

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russia and other spacefaring countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight.

This is our first opportunity to look deep inside another planet, to look at the structure and find out why it ended up the way it did, said Rain Irshad, the autonomous systems group leader at RAL Space in Oxfordshire, and one of several UK scientists who worked on InSights instruments.

InSight sent its first picture back within minutes of its new home. It was smudged and obscured by dust kicked up during the landing, but much clearer pictures are expected to be sent back soon.

Still, there are no life detectors aboard InSight. That will be part of NASAs next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life.

NASA employees celebrate Mars landing with impressive handshake

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tom Hoffman of Nasa with the first picture sent back from Mars by InSight. Photograph: Reuters The $814m (£635m) lander will use a suite of instruments to study the makeup and dimensions of the planets core, mantle and crust. Armed with that data, scientists hope to learn how Mars – and other rocky worlds – formed at the dawn of the solar system 4.6bn years ago.

By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life.

Sending a probe to Mars, whether to land, orbit or fly past, is a risky business: only 40% of missions have succeeded. Nasa is the only space agency to have pulled off a Mars landing, most recently in 2012 when the Curiosity rover was winched to the surface by a hovering sky crane.

In 2016, the European Space Agency attempted to put its own lander on Mars, but the Schiaparelli probe shut down its retro-rockets too soon and smashed into the ground.The InSight lander had to perform flawlessly to touch down safely. Soon after it hit the thin Martian atmosphere, it released a parachute, then blasted off its heat shield and fired retro-thrusters to slow its descent.

“Flawless,” declared JPLs chief engineer, Rob Manning. “This is what we really hoped and imagined in our minds eye,” he added. “Sometimes things work out in your favor.”

Confirmation that InSight had survived what Nasa called the seven minutes of terror was beamed back to Earth via satellites that trailed the probe to its destination.InSight, which is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will use three instruments to study Mars.

He said that it was hard to tell from the first photo whether there were any slopes nearby, but that it appeared he got the flat, smooth “parking lot” he was hoping for.

A seismometer deployed by a robot arm will act as an ear to the ground and listen for tremors produced when subterranean rock faces slip past one another on geological fault lines. These pressure waves bounce around inside the planet, and can reveal crucial information about its structure.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first Mars landing as the space agencys boss, said: “What an amazing day for our country.”

Mars InSight Survives Harrowing Descent to Planet Surface

Mission scientists expect InSight to record anything from a dozen to 100 Marsquakes of magnitude 3.5 or greater over the landers two-year mission. The seismometer is so sensitive it can detect vibrations smaller than the width of an atom.

The question of whether life ever existed in Mars wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.

The most important question is whether Mars is seismically active, said Neil Bowles, a planetary scientist at Oxford University, who worked on the spacecraft.

We have indirect evidence for shaking on the surface, for example by looking at boulders rolling down slopes in images from orbit, but InSight will be the first mission to place a seismometer directly on the surface of Mars.

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Measuring Marsquakes will give information on Mars internal structure and hopefully reveal more about how the planet formed. Why is Mars smaller and with a lower density than Earth and Venus? It suggests that Mars formation and evolution was somehow different to Earths or some process in the early solar system prevented Mars from growing bigger.

Another instrument, a heat probe, will burrow 5 metres into the ground and measure the rate at which heat rises through the planet.

Applause, hugs and high-fives at mission control as NASA spacecraft touches down on Mars

In a third experiment, mission scientists will use antennas on the lander to track its position with such precision they can deduce how much Mars wobbles on its axis. The amount of wobble reflects the size of the planets core and whether it is molten or solid.Earths rotating molten iron core generates the magnetic field that shields life from harmful radiation, and helps prevent the atmosphere from being stripped away by high-energy particles in the solar wind.

US spacecraft successfully touches down on Mars

At some point in its history, Mars lost its magnetic field and much of its atmosphere, causing temperatures to drop and exposing the surface to intense radiation. InSight may help explain why, said Irshad.

Are there conditions under the surface that might have meant life went down there in order to survive? she said. If it retreated beneath the surface, future missions might find it there.

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