NASA spacecraft lands on Mars after six-month journey

InSight Is Catching Rays On Mars Says NASA

Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars (VIDEO)

The Mars InSight faced a harrowing near seven-minute plunge through the planet's thin atmosphere at supersonic speeds before touching down. In less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, InSight will have to slowed from 12,300 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour before it gently lands on the surface of Mars, according to NASA. The seismic waves marsquakes produce will be used by InSight to create a 3-D picture of Mars's interior-but they can also be used to study meteorites thudding into the surface.

Of course, the amount of data that a lander can gather is limited, as it's only sitting on one spot on Mars, and it will take some waiting before the mission reveals interesting information.

"Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA's $993 million Mars InSight lander has successfully touched down on the Red Planet to listen for quakes and study how rocky planets formed, the USA space agency has said.

The hugely popular InSight Twitter handle shot off the first picture of Mars within moments of touchdown and then this message too: "I feel you, #Mars - and soon I'll know your heart". The NASA team said they were glad to see the dust, as they were hoping for a soft landing site. NASA will also monitor radio pulses from InSight as a way to track Mars' rotation and wobble, which could help us understand its internal structure.

InSight will spend 24 months, about one Martian year, examining Mars. In fact, it will be two to three months before InSight's robotic arm even sets its instruments on the martian surface, according to a NASA statement.

"While most of the country was enjoying Thanksgiving with their family and friends, the InSight team was busy making the final preparations for Monday's landing", said Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight's project manager.

"It is wonderful news that the InSight spacecraft has landed safely on Mars", said Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency.

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A second instrument, furnished by Germany's space agency, consists of a drill to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat flowing from inside the planet.

"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".

It's the first spacecraft built to explore the deep interior of another world, carrying instruments to detect planetary heat and seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but earth.

It was NASA's ninth attempt to land at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes.

If the instrument establishes that Mars has the remains of a liquid core it will suggest the planet once had a magnetic field that could have shielded early life - before dramatically and mysteriously weakening.

InSight's first photo from the martian surface.

"I've just received confirmation that there are no rocks in front of the lander", he told AFP. In order to become fully functional, it still has to deploy its solar panels.

The question of whether life ever existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.

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