Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars

Touchdown: NASA's InSight Lands on Mars (VIDEO)

NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Lands Successfully On Mars After 300-Million-Mile Journey

It was NASA's - indeed, humanity's - eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. NASA hasn't committed to a MarCO-like mission for its next Mars lander, the Mars 2020 rover, but Klesh said the success of MarCO has opened the door to that and other uses of smallsats in deep space.

But as expected, the dust kicked up during the landing obscured the first picture InSight sent back, which was heavily flecked.

Engineers at JPL received real-time confirmation of the craft's arrival from data relayed by a pair of miniature satellites that were launched along with InSight. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the device could detect how often Mars gets bombarded by asteroids.

The nail-biting entry, descent and landing phase began at 11:47 am (1940 GMT) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home to mission control for Mars InSight, and ended one second before 1953 GMT.

After almost seven months and more than 300 million miles, NASA's InSight spacecraft touched down on Mars on Monday to cheers. "Going to Mars is really, really hard". The successful landing is a feat of engineering and space savvy, as only about 40 percent of missions that have been sent to Mars (by any space agency) have met with success.

InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.

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The 800-pound (360-kilogram) InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year. Ultimately, by giving Mars an internal examination we'll be able to compare the Red Planet's composition with Earth's, greatly improving our understanding of how planets in our solar system-and even exoplanets orbiting other stars-actually form. 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.

It will help explain how all rocky planets, including the Earth, evolved. The team was extremely happy with the landing, as you can see in the tweet below.

InSight wasn't out of the woods yet: NASA awaited word Monday night on whether the spacecraft's vital solar panels successfully unfolded. NASA's Odyssey probe, orbiting Mars, will be used later today to check that's the case.

Interestingly, meteorite impacts also had an important part to play in the selection of Elysium Planitia as InSight's landing zone, says Suzanne Smrekar, InSight deputy principal investigator, who is also at JPL. "Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars' deep interior - information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home".

This image made available by NASA shows the planet Mars.

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