- NASA just successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in the agency’s history.
- The InSight lander quickly sent back a photo of its new Martian view.
- InSight will now spend approximately two Earth years on Mars, checking for quakes and taking the planet’s temperature.
NASA’s InSight lander hit Mars on Monday at 2:54 p.m. ET.
As scientists at mission control erupted in cheers and handshakes, the craft sent back its first visual proof that it had touched down on Martian soil safely.
The speckled photo came from one of InSight’s two built-in cameras. It looks gritty because the lens still had its dust cover on, but that part will come off as the lander settles in.
The image, which shows the flat plane where the InSight landed and a bit of the Martian horizon, appeared on screen at mission control just moments after the 794-pound lab plopped down.
About half an hour later, InSight’s other built-in camera (mounted on a robotic-arm) got it’s own first look at the section of equatorial Mars, Elysium Planitia, where the lander is currently setting up shop for Martian research.
InSight will spend about two Earth years checking out the red planet, some 140 million miles away from Earth. The robot will attempt to hammer a heat probe 16 feet deep into Martian ground – a depth that has never been explored before – to check the planet’s temperature. It will also use a seismometer to track quakes, and a pair of antennas with a radio transmitter will record how much the planet shakes and wobbles as it orbits.
Scientists hope that the roughly $US828 million mission will help answer questions about how rocky planets – including Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury – formed.
This is only the eighth time that NASA has successfully landed on Mars, and mission control was pretty psyched that the lander made it safely after speeding through the solar system for over six months.
Here’s what the scientists’ reaction looked like:
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