Mars touchdown: Safe landing for NASA's InSight spacecraft

Mars touchdown: Safe landing for NASA's InSight spacecraft

Mars touchdown: Safe landing for NASA's InSight spacecraft

"Flawless", declared JPL's chief engineer, Rob Manning.

A pair of mini satellites trailing InSight since their May liftoff provided practically real-time updates of the spacecraft's supersonic descent through the reddish skies.

Naturally, people were psyched to see the images from Mars.

A better image came hours later and more are expected in the days ahead, after the dust covers come off the lander's cameras. "This is really fantastic".

NASA went with its old, straightforward approach this time, using a parachute and braking engines to get InSight's speed from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) when it pierced the Martian atmosphere, about 77 miles (114 kilometers) up, to 5 mph (8kph) at touchdown. Radio signals confirming the landing took more than eight minutes to cross the almost 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

A burst of applause and cheers exploded at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Monday (26th November) as NASA's latest Mars lander, called InSight, touched down safely on the Red Planet and managed to send a picture back to Earth. Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square.

InSight arrived on Mars's Elysium Planitia area north of its equator, described as an ideal spot for its flat, rockless surface. "It's such a hard thing, it's such a unsafe thing that there's always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong".

More than half of 43 attempts to reach Mars with rovers, orbiters and probes by space agencies from around the world have failed.

U.S. space agency Nasa's £633 million two-year mission aims to shine new light on how the Red Planet was formed and its deep structure, by mapping its core, crust and mantle.

And in a final crucial phase, NASA said InSight signaled to Earth that its solar panels - twin solar arrays spanning seven feet (2.2 meters) in width - had opened and were collecting sunlight on the surface of Mars.

InSight, a $1 billion global project, includes a German mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 metres) to measure Mars' internal heat.

The principal investigator on the French seismometer, Philippe Lognonne, said he was "relieved and very happy" at the outcome.

A Nasa spacecraft has successfully reached Mars after nearly seven months travelling through space, allowing scientists to understand more about the planet's interior.

Still, there are no life detectors aboard InSight. That will be left to future rovers, such as NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which will collect rocks that will eventually be brought back to Earth and analyzed for evidence of ancient life.

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