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

Aerojet Rocketdyne general manager Ken Young talks to reporters after a successful Mars landing by NASAs In Sight expedition. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed thrusters which were used by the Mars lander. Aaron Kunkler  staff

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Before InSight, only about 40 percent of martian landings were successful, according to a statement. During more dusty conditions, as Mars is known to have, the panels can still pull in between 200 and 300 watts.

- After cruising for 205 days over 301 million miles, NASA's InSight spacecraft - a mission created to probe beneath the surface of Mars - landed flawlessly November 26 at Elysium Planitia. It is the beginning of the most extensive geological survey of a celestial body beyond Earth. "We know a lot about Mars' surface now, but we know very, very little about the deep inside of Mars", he says. Because the satellites are at Mars, they can communicate much faster with vehicles like InSight on the planet's surface. But also, as I was saying before, it tells us a lot about how planets form, and then we can apply that back to our own planet [to] understand why we have a planet, why we have a planet that has oceans, why we have a planet that has a breathable atmosphere and a temperature which is conducive to life.

The planetary know-how gained from InSight's USD$1 billion, two-year operation could even spill over to rocky worlds beyond our solar system, according to Banerdt.

An artists rendering of the In Sight Mars lander which touched down on the red planet on Nov. 26. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed thrusters which were used to let the craft safely land. Graphic courtesy of Aerojet Rocketdyne
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The photo was captured by InSight's Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), which is found on the lander's robotic arm.

"We hit the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph (19,800 kilometers per hour), and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes", InSight project manager Tom Hoffman at JPL said.

The first science data isn't expected until March, but InSight will be sharing snapshots of Mars along the way. It will lift a seismometer and heat-flow probe from the deck and places them on the surface. Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core. Even launching the mission and operating the spacecraft while it was traveling to Mars required the cooperation of scientists in Australia, Spain and the United States. The image shows the landscape of the Elysium Planitia, which is a large plain that's located at the equator of Mars. Still, this second largest volcanic region on Mars is an ideal place for InSight to land because of the science it is created to perform. Mercury, closest to the sun, has a surface that's positively baked. In fact, these satellites transmitted InSight's first look at its surroundings nearly immediately after the probe safely landed. Unlike NASA's famous rovers Curiosity and Opportunity, InSight will remain in the exact place it lands.

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Shortly after its landing, the InSight Lander sent a picture back to NASA.

" ... about two or three-hundred miles away". After successfully carrying out a number of communications and in-flight navigation experiments, the twin MarCOs were set in position to receive transmissions during InSight's entry, descent, and landing. They have the potential to both cut mission costs as well as provide a new platform for scientific observations.

NASA on Monday landed another gadget on Mars.

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