NASA's InSight spacecraft sends back first pictures from the Red Planet

NASA's InSight spacecraft sends back first pictures from the Red Planet

"NASA's JPL, which has been a pioneer in Mars exploration for decades, partners with both academia and private industry to bring the best expertise and innovation forward to make important exploration missions like InSight a success".

The US space agency tweeted one photograph, showing part of the InSight spacecraft and the Martian surface in the distance. Before InSight, only about 40 percent of martian landings were successful, according to a statement.

Together, these instruments will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller called out just before 3:00pm EST, instantly dispelling the anxiety that had gripped the control room as the spacecraft made its six-minute descent.

Landing a spacecraft on Mars is, of course, intricate.

"InSight is different to previous Mars missions". InSight will be able to measure quakes that happen anywhere on the planet.

Two briefcase-sized satellites known as CubeSats followed the exploratory probe all the way from Earth to the Red Planet.

The spacecraft is Nasa's first to touch down on Earth's neighbouring planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012. NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life. Its meteorological suite and magnetometer have been deployed while its robotic arm with an attached camera will be deployed in the coming days. "And Mars is a great place to go and start to study that".

"The InSight lander is a remarkable spacecraft".

As for next steps, prep for the lander's upcoming two-year mission will begin.

As it approaches the surface the heat shield will separate and InSight will have to perform a manoeuvre to escape it - or risk it crashing into the lander once it reaches the surface. "We are well on our way to thoroughly investigate what's inside of Mars for the very first time". The landing itself saw InSight slow from 12,300 miles per hour to just 5 miles per hour before touching down on the surface.

The first data isn't expected until March.

The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for. DLR provided the HP3 instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland.

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