NASA's InSight space probe makes successful Mars landing


The InSight space probe, the first mission mounted by NASA specifically to study the interior of Mars, on Monday landed successfully on the Red Planet.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory control room in Pasadena, California, received telemetry at 11:53 am from InSight that it had touched down on the Martian surface

"I feel you, #Mars - and soon I'll know your heart. With this safe landing, I'm here. I'm home," tweeted InSight, using its official Twitter profile, just after touchdown.

NASA has chosen to equip InSight with a synthetic personality with its own Twitter account, which currently has some 80,000 followers.

NASA scientists and technicians at flight control reacted with joy, applause, relief and group hugs to the much-anticipated news that the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport probe (InSight for short) had ended its 301-million-mile (485-million-kilometer) journey successfully.

In addition, at 11:58 am, NASA received the first photo sent from Mars by InSight, although the lens cover had not yet been removed from the probe's camera.

The probe had lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on board an Atlas V heavy load booster on May 5, 2018, and traversed the millions of miles of empty space between Earth and the Red Planet at a speed of 6,200 mph (10,000 kph).

In contrast to earlier NASA missions focusing on the Martian surface or atmosphere, InSight is the first spacecraft designed to study the interior of the planet to learn more about its composition and evolution.

To do that, InSight has a seismograph and a heat sensor that will measure the seismic activity and internal temperature of Mars, respectively.

It will use a mechanical excavator to dig into the Martian surface to a depth of about five meters (16.4 feet) at its landing site on the broad plane known as Elysium Planitia, which straddles the Mars equator.

To accomplish its landing successfully, InSight had to get through what NASA dubbed the "seven minutes of terror," the delicate and brief phase of its mission when it had to enter the Martian atmosphere like a fiery meteor and slow down from almost 20,000 kph to about 5 kph before touchdown.

InSight is scheduled to remain operational on the Martian surface for about two years.

Copyright © 2019, Hoy Los Angeles, una publicación de Los Angeles Times Media Group