NASA’s InSight successfully lands on Mars

The unmanned lander will help scientists learn more about the interior of Mars and the development of rocky planets.

NASA’s InSight successfully lands on Mars
NASA
  • The unmanned spacecraft touched down on Mars without problems shortly before 3 p.m. ET on Monday.
  • It was a precarious landing that NASA engineers had described as "seven minutes of terror."
  • InSight will study the interior of Mars, and could help scientists discover the presence of liquid water on the red planet.

NASA's InSight—a robotic lander designed to study the interior of rocky planets—successfully landed on Mars Monday afternoon, marking the agency's eighth successful deployment of a spacecraft on the red planet.

It was a precarious landing process that NASA engineers predicted would be "seven minutes of terror."

"This vehicle is very, very complicated," Rob Grover, InSight's entry, descent and landing (EDL) lead, during a NASA live stream on Monday. "It uses 12 engines, each of those engines are pulsed 10 times a second, producing these little tiny impulses, almost like little bullets that keep the vehicle going at a constant velocity as it approaches the ground."

Grover said the agency had to rely on an algorithm to guide the unmanned lander to the surface.

"We can't joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-program into the spacecraft. We've spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us," Grover said in a recent statement.

The practice paid off. A few minutes before 3 p.m., the mission control room erupted in cheers as "touchdown confirmed!" played over the speakers.

"This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye," Grover said, adding that engineers still have to check the data to confirm how smoothly the landing really was.

After making the 300-million-mile voyage from Earth, InSight landed at a site called Elysium Planitia, a flat plain on Mars's equator about 370 miles from where Curiosity touched down in August 2012. The mission, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, aims is to help scientists learn more about the early development of rocky planets, and possibly discover the presence of liquid water on Mars.

"The lander uses cutting edge instruments, to delve deep beneath the surface and seek the fingerprints of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets," NASA wrote on its website. "It does so by measuring the planet's "vital signs": its "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (heat flow), and "reflexes" (precision tracking)."

InSight was followed to Mars by two tiny experimental satellites, dubbed CubeSats, whose primary purpose was to relay radio transmissions from the lander back to Earth. NASA officials said it would take months before they start obtaining the "best data" from InSight.

Dogs digest human food better and poop less

A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.

Credit: Charles Deluvio/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
  • When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
  • Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Keep reading Show less

Your genetics influence how resilient you are to the cold

What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images
Surprising Science

Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.

Keep reading Show less

Harvard study finds perfect blend of fruits and vegetables to lower risk of death

Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.

Credit: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
  • The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
  • Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast