Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Nasa's latest Mars craft nears landing for unprecedented seismic mission

Nasa's latest Mars craft nears landing for unprecedented seismic mission

The self-hammering mole will burrow five metres down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

After sailing 548 million kilometres on a six-month voyage through deep space, the robotic lander touched down on the dusty, rock-strewn surface of Mars just before 3 p.m. ET.

"InSight is the first mission sent to look at the interior of Mars", Tanya Harrison, Director of Research for the NewSpace Initiative, Arizona State University, told Gizmodo.

As reported by Wired, confirmation of the lander's touchdown was relayed to NASA engineers courtesy of two "briefcase-sized" satellites, dubbed Mars Cube One-A and Mars Cube One-B.

Congratulations flooded into the space agency following the success, including from Mike Pence, the United States vice president, who celebrated the "incredible milestone" of the country's eighth successful landing on Mars.

It may even shed light on a little-understood process which allowed the Sun's "solar wind" to strip Mars of its atmosphere - a disaster which may also have contributed to the disappearance of the vast bodies of water which once flooded the Martian surface.

NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet after an nearly seven-month, 300-million-mile (458-million-kilometer) journey from Earth.

It was the first time the United States space agency tried to land a spacecraft on Mars since 2012, when the Curiosity rover arrived, and its eighth successful overall.

A image transmitted from Mars by the In Sight lander is seen on a computer screen at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday Nov. 26 2018 in Pasadena Calif
NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Lands Successfully On Mars After 300-Million-Mile Journey

"This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye", he said.

InSight had a six-minute window in which to decelerate from just under 13,000mph to 5mph - landing entirely based on autonomous and pre-programmed systems.

InSight, a $1 billion global venture, reached the surface after going from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines.

It will help explain how all rocky planets, including the Earth, evolved.

Nasa's mission control in California erupted with delight when it became clear InSight was safe on the ground. The landing triggered celebrations across the globe, prompting one complicated handshake between InSight team members that's captivating viewers. NASA's Mars Odyssey will then fly overhead to confirm that the panels are out. The mission is expected to last about two Earth years.

InSight landed on an expanse called Elysium Planitia close to the planet's equator. Only six-and-a-half harrowing minutes later, after ejecting its heatshield, deploying a supersonic parachute and firing retrorockets, its speed had dramatically slowed to a jogging pace after traversing the 130 kilometers between Mars's upper atmosphere and the planet's arid surface.

Scientists hope that this information can help us have a better understanding of how planets are formed - including our own.

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