Nasa's Mars InSight probe touches down on red planet

Nasa's Mars InSight probe touches down on red planet

The dramatic arrival of the $993m (R13.75bn) spacecraft - created to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet's inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape - marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in Nasa's history.

On clear days, the panels will provide InSight with between 600 and 700 watts, which is roughly enough to power a standard kitchen blender.

Together, the instruments will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

It will listen for "Marsquakes", using its vibrations will reveal where the rock layers are and what they're made of; it has a mole system which will burrow up to 5m into the ground to take the planet's temperature to help give a sense of how active Mars still is; and will also use radio transmissions to very precisely determine how the planet is wobbling on its axis.

Like every mission to Mars, InSight would not have been possible without a high level of meticulously planned worldwide coordination involving hundreds of researchers and engineers.

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Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that had been trailing InSight throughout the six-month, 300-million-mile (482-million-kilometer) journey. This image was taken at about 12:10 p.m. PST (3:10 p.m. EST) while MarCO-B was flying away from the planet after InSight landed.

NASA has successfully landed a probe on the surface of Mars. The dust at the landing site needs to settle, once that's done the lander can start to unpack its experiments and place them on the surface of the red planet. In the background is Elysium Planitia, a large plain located at the planet's equator. Its probe to measure heat flow five meters below Mars' surface was made in Germany and Poland, its weather station in Spain and its laser reflector, which will be used for precision longitude, latitude and altitude measurements, in Italy.

They were nicknamed EVE and WALL-E, for the robots from the 2008 Pixar film. "We have reawakened NASA, and that's a good thing". "The success of these two unique missions is a tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who put their genius and labor into making this a great day". But during the flyby, MarCO-A transmitted signals through the edge of the Martian atmosphere.

"CubeSats have incredible potential to carry cameras and science instruments out to deep space. But they're low-priced ride-alongs that can allow us to explore in new ways". "It's given them valuable experience on every facet of building, testing and operating a spacecraft in deep space".

Thomas Zurbuchen is the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

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