Mars touchdown: Safe landing for NASA's InSight spacecraft

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"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries", Tom Hoffman, a project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which leads the mission, said in a statement.

A NASA spacecraft created to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile (482 million-km) journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere. InSight is the first robot to land on Mars in six years, and has been created to delve deeper into the structure of the planet and how it was formed.

"Touch down confirmed!" Mission Control announced as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory burst into applause.

The landing capped a six-month journey of 301 million miles (548 million km) from Earth, following InSight's launch from California in May. It's a geophysical lander tasked with studying the deep interior of Mars and trying to understand the processes that formed the rocky planets of the interior solar system over four billion years ago.

Practically speaking, InSight is Mars' first geophysicist.

Immediately after landing, InSight's very first act was to snap a picture of the landscape immediately in front of it.

Over the next two years, we will learn a lot more about Mars and hopefully find answers to such questions as if there are any signs of past life or if Mars now has any liquid water.

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The heat shield soared to a temperature of 2,700 Fahrenheit (about 1,500 Celsius) before it was discarded, the three landing legs deployed and the parachute popped out, easing InSight down to the Martian surface.

NASA's science chief, Thomas Zurbuchen said previously: "As humanity, as explorers - we're batting at less than 50 percent".

"We've studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry".

InSight (the name is short for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport") launched toward the Red Planet on May 5.

Bridenstine also said Vice President Mike Pence called to congratulate the U.S. space agency for its hard work.

When the announcement was made that InSight had landed and the mission was a success, Nasa employees were obviously thrilled, with two mission controllers launching into an impressive handshake to celebrate. NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life. Scientists hope that this information will support work studying the evolution of terrestrial planets like Mars.

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