Touchdown on Mars: NASA's InSight lands to peer inside the Red Planet
By Mike Wall
November 28, 2018, 7:15:57 AM EST
Mars just welcomed a new robotic resident.
NASA's InSight lander touched down safely on the Martian surface today (Nov. 26), pulling off the first successful Red Planet landing since the Curiosity rover's arrival in August 2012 — on the seventh anniversary of Curiosity's launch, no less.
Signals confirming InSight's touchdown came down to Earth at 2:53 p.m. EST (1953 GMT), eliciting whoops of joy and relief from mission team members and NASA officials here at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages the InSight mission. A few minutes later, the team received confirmation from the lander that it's functioning after the landing.
"It was intense, and you could feel the emotion," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who was in the control room here at JPL during the landing. "It was very, very quiet when it was time to be quiet and of course very celebratory with every little new piece of information that was received. It's very different being here than watching it on TV, by far, I can tell you that for sure now that I've experienced both."
But the tension didn't completely dissipate until 8:30 p.m. EST (0130 GMT on Nov. 27), when mission team members learned that InSight successfully deployed its solar panels. Without those arrays extended, the lander could not survive, let alone probe the Red Planet's interior like never before — the main goal of the $850 million InSight mission.
The agonizing delay was unavoidable; NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter wasn't in position to relay the deployment confirmation to mission control until about 5.5 hours after touchdown, agency officials said.
If the arrays do unfurl as planned, InSight will join a relatively select club. Less than 40 percent of all Mars missions over the decades have successfully arrived at their destination, be that an orbital path around the planet or its dusty red surface.
A long road to Mars
InSight launched on May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, in the first-ever liftoff of an interplanetary mission from the U.S. West Coast. (Florida's Space Coast is the traditional jumping-off point for such far-flung voyagers.)
InSight shared its Atlas V rocket ride with two briefcase-size cubesats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B, which have been making their own way to Mars over the past 6.5 months. The MarCO duo (whose name is short for "Mars Cube One") have been embarked on an $18 million demonstration mission, which seeks to show that tiny spacecraft can explore deep space.
More Weather News
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 3:59:53 PM EST
Large storms and cold air are likely to take a break over much of the nation during much of next week ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 4:13:42 PM EST
A storm will continue to bring rain, fog, ice and a wintry mix to parts of the northeastern United States this weekend.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 3:13:23 PM EST
Rain, wind, mountain snow and rough surf will take aim at the Northwest and California at the end of the weekend as the barrage of Pacific storms continues.
Florence-ravaged areas face more river flooding as Wilmington, North Carolina, hits 100-inch yearly rain total
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 1:21:04 PM EST
Flooding will plague residents living along many swollen rivers in the southeastern United States despite dry weather taking hold from Sunday through Wednesday.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 10:29:25 AM EST
Residents of northern Queensland are enduring a second and more severe strike by former-Tropical Cyclone Owen.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 9:41:16 AM EST
Holiday shopping plans and festivities can be disrupted as a period of snow or icy mix is anticipated to cause slick travel from northern France to Germany into Sunday.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 12:22:25 PM EST
Strengthening Cyclonic Storm Phethai in the Bay of Bengal may become a severe cyclonic storm with eventual impacts to eastern India into early next week.
In case you missed it: Deadly snowstorm pummels South; Strongest Tennessee earthquake in 45 years shakes Atlanta
Weather News - December 14, 2018, 11:30:28 AM EST
The strongest earthquake to hit the southern U.S. in 45 years rattled Tennessee to Georgia this week while a snowstorm wreaked havoc from the Carolinas to Virginia.