After 301 million miles of travel at a cost of $850 million, scientists hope to learn more about what’s beneath the surface of Mars.
NASA’s InSight landed safely on Mars on Monday afternoon, with scientists now hopeful they’ll get a below-the-surface look at the Red Planet.
Shortly before 3 p.m. ET on Monday, scientists cheered as their prized craft safely landed on the Red Planet and started sending back its first images.
The InSight lander arrived on Mars’ surface in what NASA said will be “seven minutes of terror” as their prized craft decelerated from 12,300 mph to 5 mph at landing.
“There’s a reason engineers call landing on Mars ‘seven minutes of terror,’ ” said Rob Grover, who leads the team in charge of InSight’s landing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“We can’t joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-program into the spacecraft. We’ve spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us. And we’re going to stay vigilant till InSight settles into its home in the Elysium Planitia region.”
Here are some of the details about InSight’s journey:
NASA wants to get a comprehensive look beneath the Martian surface and collect data about the planet’s crust, mantle, and core with a 16-foot dig below. It’ll hopefully answer the basic question of whether Mars could have supported life.
InSight is short for the projects formal name, the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
Distance and cost
InSight has been in flight since May 5 when it blasted out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, traveling 301 million miles to Mars at a mission cost of $850 million.
A 39-foot parachute was set to guide the 800-pound, solar-powered InSight to its Martian parking spot.
For the next two years (or one Mars year), scientists hope to collect data that’ll show how micro-organisms might have once existed there. The craft is built to last at least two years and with any luck, it could keep working for another two years behind that, said NASA chief scientists Jim Green.