NASA's InSight spacecraft lands on Mars after 6-month journey

NASA scientists celebrate In Sight landing with handshake worthy of the NBA

NASA scientists celebrate In Sight landing with handshake worthy of the NBA

He said the basic design of InSight was inherited from the Phoenix spacecraft, which landed on Mars on May 25, 2008.

A pair of mini satellites trailing InSight since their May liftoff provided practically real-time updates of the spacecraft's supersonic descent through the reddish skies. U.S. eastern time. When confirmation of the landing came through, mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab erupted in applause and cheers. The self-hammering mole will burrow five metres down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes. "The details like thickness and composition give clues to how they form and the different paths they took to form the planets we see today". It will jackhammer into the surface and extend its heat probe first to determine the Martian temperature, before staying still on the surface collecting data.

If all goes according to plan, it will drop onto the equatorial plain called Elysium Planitia at about 8km/h - but scientists won't know if its solar panels will have deployed until about 8.35pm EST, when NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will be in position to relay data to Earth.

Prior to the landing, project officials had hinted they were looking at options for an extended mission for MarCO, but were focused at the time on supporting the InSight landing.

To further explore Mars, the lander must be at a place where it can stay still and quiet for its entire mission.

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Museums, planetariums and libraries across the USA held viewing parties to watch the events unfold at JPL.

InSight also shared the first picture from Mars on Twitter saying: "My lens cover isn't off yet, but I just had to show you a first look at my new home".

InSight launched from California on May 5 and enjoyed a pleasantly uneventful flight to Mars, just how engineers like it. While Earth is active seismically, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after it formed, he said. Up until now, the success rate at the red planet has been only 40 per cent, counting every attempted fly-by, orbital flight and landing by the US, Russia and other countries since 1960.

InSight has no life-detecting capability, however. The mission will help boffins understand the formation of rocky planets, and the Solar System as a whole, explained Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s InSight spacecraft on Monday touched down safely on Mars, kicking off its two-year mission as the first spacecraft created to explore the deep interior of another world.

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