NASA's InSight lands on Mars after six-month journey

MarCO Mars image

A camera on the InSight lander's lower deck snapped this initial picture of the spacecraft's surroundings on Mars, confirming the vehicle's systems were healthy after a fiery plunge through the red planet's atmosphere.

- NASA's United States dollars 993 million Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet to listen for quakes and study how rocky planets formed, the U.S. space agency said.

The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in nearly real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4 1/2 minutes after landing.

InSight and MarCO flight controllers monitored and cheered for the spacecraft's successful entry, descent and landing from mission control at JPL in Pasadena, California.

RISE, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, tracks the location of the lander to ultimately determine the size and composition of Mars' core. The lander also has a French-made seismometer for measuring quakes, if they exist on our smaller, geologically calmer neighbor.

"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 the landing.

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.

There are significant mysteries here, because while both Mars and the Earth were formed from the same stuff more than 4.5 billion years ago, they are now very different planets.

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InSight is set to investigate the deep interior of Mars, which includes using a mole-like instrument to burrow into the ground to take the planet's temperature.

Chief Nasa administrator James Bridenstine told reporters it was "an wonderful day" and said that President Donald Trump has rung to offer his congratulations.

Now, after years of development, and months of tracking their charge through space, it was finally safe on the surface of Mars, ready to proceed with its groundbreaking science.

InSight will detect geophysical signals deep below the Martian surface, including marsquakes and heat.

The red planet is comparatively easy to land on and is less likely to melt NASA's equipment than Venus or Mercury, the space administration said.

Assuming the heat flow probe deploys successfully, the measurements it makes could transform our understanding not only of how Mars evolved, but also how other rocky planets, like Earth, came to be.

The NASA InSight has officially landed on Mars after a seven month journey through our galaxy.

Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions.

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