NASA InSight Landing a Success
InSight will commence on a two-year mission to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces formed.
NASA 's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight ) lander successfully touched down on Mars after an almost seven-month, 300-million-mile (458-million-kilometer) journey from Earth. InSight launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California May 5, 2018. The lander touched down Monday, Nov. 26, near Mars' equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia, with a signal affirming a completed landing sequence at approximately noon Pacific Standard Time (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).
With the harrowing approach and landing complete, InSight will commence on a two-year mission to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed .
"Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history,” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “InSight will study the interior of Mars and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars. This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team. The best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon.”
The landing signal was relayed to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, via one of NASA's two small experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, which launched on the same rocket as InSight and followed the lander to Mars. They are the first CubeSats sent into deep space. After successfully carrying out numerous communications and in-flight navigation experiments, the twin MarCOs were set in position to receive transmissions during InSight's entry, descent, and landing.
InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020. The mission objectives of the two small MarCOs which relayed InSight’s telemetry was completed after their Martian flyby.
William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.