Science

Watch NASA’s Mars InSight landing live right here

Watch NASA’s Mars InSight landing live right here

InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where the building blocks below the planet's surface that recorded its history.

The InSight spacecraft, which took off from California almost six months ago, finally made its landing on the surface of Mars Monday.

Flight controllers announced that the robotic geologist, InSight, entered the Martian atmosphere Monday afternoon.

"Landing on Mars is exciting, but scientists are looking forward to the time after InSight lands", said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. "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".

The lander is outfitted with two main science instruments - a burrowing heat probe and a trio of incredibly sensitive seismometers.

The landing itself is a tricky maneuver.

As you may remember when Curiosity reached Mars, landing involved seven minutes of terror.

Engineers at JPL hope to get real-time electronic confirmation of the spacecraft's safe arrival from miniature satellites that were launched along with InSight and will fly past Mars. Of 45 missions, Nasa considers 18 to have been a complete success.

It may even shed light on a little-understood process which allowed the Sun's "solar wind" to strip Mars of its atmosphere - a disaster which may also have contributed to the disappearance of the vast bodies of water which once flooded the Martian surface. The picture was speckled with debris because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible - pretty much what scientists had hoped for.

A rendering of the In Sight streaking through Mars' atmosphere
NASA JPL-CALTECHA rendering of the In Sight streaking through Mars' atmosphere

InSight's perilous descent through the Martian atmosphere has stomachs churning and nerves stretched to the max. Peak heating of the protective heat shield will reach 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit two minutes later, which then decelerates. The intense heating may cause a temporary radio-communications blackout.

As the probe descended, the air molecules that make up the Martian atmosphere struck the heat shield, causing the shield to heat up and the craft to slow down. After detaching from the parachute, 12 thrusters will slow the lander's descent to just over 2 meters per second before it touches down.

Here's what's supposed to happen: About 90 minutes before atmosphere entry, mission managers will send the latest tracking information to the probe, so it will know where it is and how fast it is traveling.

InSight is the first mission dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, the first to place a seismometer directly on the surface of another planet and will probe 15 time deeper than any previous mission.

The mission team says that even if only one panel deploys, they can still perform the mission, but if neither deploy, for some reason, that is when the lander will run into trouble.

The InSight mission cost about $814 million, including the launch costs; France and Germany invested about $180 million. This means the lander will not be expected to scour the surface of the Red Planet but rather take measurements of what is happening underground and towards the alien world's center.

The InSight mission, which is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will provide scientists with a wealth of data.

InSight landed on what seems to bea very boring part of Mars, known as Elysium Planitia. As the surface pushes up on the lander's legs, a trigger sensor will be depressed shutting down the rockets.

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The future official residence would be Frogmore Cottage near Windsor Castle , where the couple had married on 19 May. William is a husband and father of three and his focus is primarily on them, and Harry will soon be a father.


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