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Camera InSight landed on Mars and sent the first photo

30 November 2018
Camera InSight landed on Mars and sent the first photo

News of the solar array milestone came with a spectacular photo of Mars by InSight showing a view of the robot's Elysium Planitia landing site as seen from the deck of the spacecraft.

InSight and MarCO flight controllers monitored and cheered for the spacecraft's successful entry, descent and landing from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

InSight's two-year mission will be to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed. An on-board seismometer could also help future astronauts setting foot on the Red Planet. Other landers and rovers have looked at the geology of Mars, but InSight is the first mission to investigate the interior structure and composition of the planet. The photo was marred by hundreds of blurry specs of Martian dust (the transparent lens cover was still on the camera mounted under InSight's landing deck), but beyond these cosmetic blemishes, the Mars surface was clear. Landing on the Martian surface is exceedingly hard: Only 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars have been successful - all of those sent by NASA. InSight's surface-operations phase began a minute after touchdown.

Phoning home: NASA had to wait several minutes before InSight phoned home to say it's okay.

"We've studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry, Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system."
"This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our worldwide partners, and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team", he said. "The best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon". NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the device could detect how often Mars gets bombarded by asteroids. "This team of really mostly part-timers on the project has proven the technology we were trying to demonstrate with this mission, being able to support a large craft like InSight", he said.

The basic design of InSight was inherited from Phoenix spacecraft, which landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, he added. "We know a lot of about its surface, its atmosphere and ionosphere, but not a lot about the first two miles of Mars' crust", the scientists said. The space agency has revealed in its latest update that the probe has also successfully deployed its solar panels - needed to power the lander - on the Red Planet.