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.

New study cautions marijuana beginners to 26 adverse reactions

Researchers documented the most common negative side effects of smoking weed, and who might be most susceptible.

Surprising Science
  • A team of researchers identified a total of 26 possible adverse reactions to cannabis use.
  • Coughing fits, anxiety, and paranoia are among the top three most common adverse reactions to smoking weed.
  • It was the people who smoke on a less frequent basis who were more likely to have had the bad experiences.
Keep reading Show less

Why San Francisco felt like the set of a sci-fi flick

But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.

Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP / Getty Images
Surprising Science

On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.

Keep reading Show less

Finland is the 'most sustainable' country, say expats

India finishes last of 60 countries in environment and sustainability, as ranked by the expats who work there.

Orange is best, blue is worst on this world map for the 'sustainable expat'.

Image: Environment & Sustainability Ranking, an Expat Insider topical report published by InterNations
Strange Maps
  • How 'green' is life in your work country?
  • That's the question InterNations asked its network of expats.
  • The United States ended 30th out of 60 countries.
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science

AI reveals the Sahara actually has millions of trees

A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast