NASA scientists celebrate InSight landing with handshake worthy of the National Basketball Association

Gwen Vasquez
December 2, 2018

"We are solar powered, so getting the arrays out and operating is a big deal", said in a statement InSight project manager Tom Hoffman.

After travelling for nearly seven months and upwards of 300 million miles, NASA's InSight spacecraft finally landed on Mars on 25th November Monday.

The site is roughly 600km from the 2012 landing spot of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity, the last spacecraft sent to the Red Planet by NASA.

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.

After a seven-month journey, NASA's InSight spacecraft has finally touched down on Mars.

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It will be the first mission to study the deep interiors of Mars - detecting "marsquakes" and meteor impacts in a bid to unlock the planet's beneath-surface secrets. During its descent towards the martian surface, the probe first entered Mars' atmosphere 80 miles (129 km) above the surface. The lander also has a French-made seismometer for measuring quakes, if they exist on our smaller, geologically calmer neighbor.

The first picture taken by InSight during landing.

If everything goes to plan today, expect a wealth of new information about the history of our planet in the coming months and years.

The In Sight lander is due to land on Mars in November. Pic NASA
Image Insight will help understand what is happening around the core of Mars. Pic Artist's image NASA

InSight has another trick to decipher what's inside Mars, but it needs a little help from the Deep Space Network (DSN) -radio antennae on Earth that maintain contact with robotic space missions throughout the solar system.

NASA's InSight spacecraft opens a window into the "inner space" of Mars.

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.

"The reason why we're digging into Mars is to better understand not just Mars, but the Earth itself", said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator.

Cheers and applause erupted at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday as a waist-high unmanned lander, called InSight, touched down on Mars, capping a almost seven-year journey from design to launch to landing. "It was intense, and you could feel the emotion", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a NASA livestream about the landing's success.

In 2020, it will land another rover in an ancient lake bed to directly look for evidence of microbes, dead or alive.

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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