Cheers and applause erupted at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday as a waist high unmanned lander, called InSight, touched down on Mars, capping a almost seven-year journey from design to launch to landing.
Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russian Federation and other countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight. "During that short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform dozens of operations and do them flawlessly - and by all indications that is exactly what our spacecraft did".
"Mars is kind of a unique laboratory for us - a planetary laboratory - in that it's gone through all the very initial processes of planetary formation, back 4 1/2 billion years ago". That is the goal of the new space Rover, which should also reveal many interesting points. As that name implies, the goal of the lander spacecraft is to carry out geological research, helping scientists to better get to grips with how the planet is constructed from core to crust. However, in the event of special moments, the Rover system is provided with a reinforced drilling and splitting of samples. The experiment which will map the interior structure of Mars and measure its rotation was developed in the United States.
The spacecraft is meant to be solar-powered once it reaches the surface of Mars.
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"Our measurements will help us turn back the clock and understand what produced a verdant Earth but a desolate Mars", said Bruce Banerdt, who leads the Insight mission, prior to Monday's landing at the Elysium Planitia, a flat, smooth plain devoid of rocks and hills, 373 miles north of the Curiosity rover. InSight is also slated to drill five meters into the surface, deeper than any previous study, and place heat sensors every ten centimeters to learn about the evolution of heat flow in the planet's interior. "Ultimately, this will contribute to the knowledge of how all rocky planets formed". In fact, it will be two to three months before InSight's robotic arm even sets its instruments on the martian surface, according to NASA.
InSight's first photo of Mars shows dust speckled on the transparent dust cover that was over the camera.
On clear days, the panels will provide InSight with between 600 and 700 watts, which is roughly enough to power a standard kitchen blender.
InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies. NASA says we should expect data back from the experiments around March 2019.
"Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history". Engineers will be hoping there won't be a dust storm going on when InSight comes in to land, though the real problem is speed.