NASA’s unmanned Insight Mars Lander reaches red planet after nearly seven-year journey from design to launch to landing.
Cheers and applause erupted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday. This marks the eighth successful landings on Mars in NASA’s history.
The $993 million worth Mars lander spacecraft is designed to tolerate quakes and tremors, and to reveal the hidden mysteries of red planet. This includes how the planet was formed billions of years ago, its extension, and how rocky planets like Earth took its shape.
“Touchdown confirmed,” a mission control operator at NASA said, as pent-up anxiety and excitement surged through the room, and dozens of scientists leapt from their seats to embrace each other.
“It was intense and you could feel the emotion,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, in an interview on NASA television afterward.
Bridenstine also said Vice President Mike Pence called to congratulate the US space agency for its hard work.
The Mars Lander appeared to be in good shape, according to the first communications received from the Martian surface.
But as expected, the dust kicked up during the landing obscured the first picture InSight sent back, which was heavily flecked.
“Here’s a quick-and-dirty attempt at processing out distortion in the first image from InSight,” Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor at the Planetary Society, wrote on Twitter.
“It does look like the lander is a bit tilted, which is not ideal, but the workspace looks flat as a pancake and nearly rock-free.”
The principal investigator on the French seismometer, Philippe Lognonne, said he was “relieved and very happy” at the outcome.
“I’ve just received confirmation that there are no rocks in front of the lander,” he told AFP.
Next, InSight must open its solar arrays, as NASA waits until later in the afternoon to learn if that final, crucial phase went as planned.
The Mars Lander spacecraft is meant to be solar-powered once it reaches the surface of Mars.
A post-launch press conference is planned for 2200 GMT.