Mars landing: NASA celebrates as spacecraft lands on Red Planet


The InSight probe aims to study the deep interior of Mars, and make it the only planet - apart from Earth - that has been examined in this way. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

NASA is the only space agency to have made it, and is invested in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first Mars-bound human explorers in the 2030s.

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.

"Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration", InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, said before Monday's success.

It was NASA's eighth successful Mars landing since the 1976 Vikings.

During its descent towards the martian surface, the probe first entered Mars' atmosphere 80 miles (129 km) above the surface.

The InSight mission team waited and "watched" for the probe's landing by monitoring InSight's radio signals with radio telescopes on Earth and a variety of spacecraft, according to a NASA statement.

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InSight's successful landing after a almost seventh-month journey is hugely significant for Mars scientists, who now have a tool to probe deeper into the planet than ever before. Less than a minute later, InSight's 12 retrorockets fired, providing the probe with an additional braking force, and allowing it to settle neatly onto the planet's surface. And besides, InSight cares little for the superficialities on the surface; its interest lies far deeper.

InSight, a $1 billion global venture, reached the surface after going from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines. And today we really don't know if the core of Mars is liquid or solid, and how big that core is. The successful landing is a feat of engineering and space savvy, as only about 40 percent of missions that have been sent to Mars (by any space agency) have met with success.

Squeee, first photo from InSight!

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russian Federation and other spacefaring countries, have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's perspective and monitor the environment. NASA's Mars Odyssey will then fly overhead to confirm that the panels are out.

The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for.

Mars and Earth are both rocky planets that seem to have had water in their history, but have evolved to become vastly different.

InSight's efforts have the potential to teach us valuable information about the formation of rocky planets in our solar system.