NASA’s Mars InSight lander touches down, sends first pic

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The signals were delayed by the eight minutes it took for radio waves to travel from Mars, meaning InSight's fate had already been sealed by the time anyone at JPL heard about it.

Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles said the successful landing was confirmed by signals relayed to Earth from one of two miniature satellites that were launched along with InSight, and flew past Mars when it arrived shortly before 3 p.m. EST. InSight is equipped with two cameras: the one that produced this picture is on the main body of the spacecraft and captures fish-eye images, which maximizes the field of vision for close-up work.

Over the next few "sols" - or Martian days of 24 hours, 39½ minutes - flight controllers will also assess the health of InSight's all-important robot arm and its science instruments.

"This is really good news", said Rob Manning, JPL's chief engineer.

"MarCO was there to relay information back from InSight in real time, and we did that extraordinarily well", said Andy Klesh, MarCO chief engineer, at a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here November 26 two hours after the InSight landing.

"It was intense, and you could feel the emotion, it was very quiet when it was time to be quiet and of course very celebratory with every little new piece of information that was received", said Jim Bridenstine, Nasa administrator.

He said it was a little unusual to realize that by the time word arrived, history had already been made eight minutes earlier because of the lag in communication between Mars and Earth.

InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas.

NASA's newest Mars probe, InSight, made a stunning, successful landing on the red planet on Monday afternoon. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes. No lander has dug deeper than several centimeters, and no seismometer has ever worked on Mars.

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However, they're going to be using a seismometer, which will measure Marsquakes. Its first job was to get a fast picture out.

The craft's solar array motors will warm up and prepare to unfurl the solar panels.

The craft had a "perfect" landing following its journey to the red planet and is reported to be "working perfectly".

"We'll be able to track the location of InSight to an accuracy of about 10 inches", says Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator. The instruments will have to be set up and fine-tuned.

'I'm rather nervous and tense, ' she said this morning. Though we've been exploring and studying the surface of Mars for decades, we've never studied what's inside.

What will NASA's Mars InSight lander study? Why, for instance, is Earth tectonically active but Mars isn't?

NASA hopes to use InSight to learn about how rocky planets like Earth and Mars formed.

Still, there are no life detectors aboard InSight. That will be left to future rovers, such as Nasa's Mars 2020 mission, which will collect rocks that will eventually be brought back to Earth and analysed for evidence of ancient life.

It was hard to find a way to top Bobak Ferdowsi, aka NASA's "Mohawk Guy" during the Curiosity landing in 2012, but they damn well tried.

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