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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
  • 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.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Jupiter's moon Europa has a huge ocean beneath its sheets of ice.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

White dwarfs.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Juan Carlos Correa (L) , a prospective home buyer is shown a short sale home by Denise Madan, a Real Estate agent with Re/Max, as he shops for a house on April 22, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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