NASA Lands InSight on Mars

This illustration shows NASA's In Sight lander about to touch down on the surface of Mars

"The best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon".

If Insight lives through the perilous descent and lands in one piece, it will mean a small corner of an alien planet will be forever British. From here, scientists at NASA will begin preparing the lander for its primary mission: studying what's going on beneath the surface of Mars.

InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will help scientists understand what is happening around the core of Mars. The landing itself is a tricky maneuver.

The Mars InSight lander has touched down on the dusty Red Planet after sailing 548 million kilometres over a six-month voyage through deep space.

Carrying instruments that are able to detect planetary heat and seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth, the stationary lander streaked into the thin Martian atmosphere at 12,300 miles (19,795 km) per hour.

However, it is notoriously hard to touch down on Mars.

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.

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The first image has already been beamed down Earth by the lander. NASA wanted to wait 16 minutes for the dust to settle before attempting that; it was awaiting word Monday night on how that went.

The image was marred by specks of debris.

Nasa's mission control in California erupted with delight when it became clear InSight was safe on the ground. This is when the intense heat could cause temporary drops in the radio signal from the craft. This tension quickly turned to excitement once InSight landed, however."The enthusiasm here is incredible", Bridenstine said. It slowed until it reached a consistent 5 miles per hour. Then, it will touch down at 2:54 pm ET.

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

People react as they watch InSight land on Mars from Times Square in New York City.

What counts most at the moment though is that InSight is precisely where it's supposed to be-on Mars's Elysium plain, just north of the equator; and that it's there precisely when it was supposed to be-205 days after its May 5 launch.

"The UK scientists and engineers involved in this mission have committed several years of their lives to building the seismometer on board, and the descent is always a worrying time".

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NASA officials say it will take two to three months for the main instruments to be deployed and put into operation. The team was extremely happy with the landing, as you can see in the tweet below. Science data isn't expected until March. "We are solar powered, so getting the arrays out and operating is a big deal", Hoffman said.

However, it's not the first time we've attempted to get to Mars. Because it won't be roving over the surface, the landing site was an important determination.

The robot absolutely has to start generating power to operate its systems and to warm equipment in the sub-zero temperatures that persist on the Red Planet.

InSight wasn't out of the woods yet: NASA awaited word Monday night on whether the spacecraft's vital solar panels successfully unfolded.

The suite of geophysical instruments on InSight sounds like a doctor's bag, giving Mars its first "checkup" since it formed. Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core.

NASA's $850 million InSight mission is created to probe the interior of Mars with a seismometer, heat probe and other instruments to study how the planet formed.

'This is a concern that there could be a problem on landing, so I will be excited when I know it's landed safely'.

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