NASA's InSight has successfully completed its soft landing on Mars on Monday after a six-month, 300 million mile journey. And it's already sending back photos of the desolate Red Planet from its landing site on the Elysium Planitia, courtesy of a post on the lander's Twitter feed reading, "There's a quiet beauty here. Looking forward to exploring my new home. "
– NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) November 27, 2018
InSight has already deployed its two decagonal solar arrays, which span seven feet each and provide the craft's operational power supply. Its mission is to provide insights into how rocky planets like Mars form and evolve over time, and it's equipped with instruments including a seismometer, a burrowing heat test, and radio science gear.
For NASA statement, InSight will begin collecting some data within its first week of operations, although its Earth-based staff are primarily working on activating and calibrating its systems. One of the first tasks on its list is deploying a 1.80m robotic arm that will take photos of the Martian landscape, which will be completed in a few days. Many of its experiments will take time to develop, NASA will require extensive data to decide where to deploy the sismometer and sperm burrowing, and may have to wait even further for any activity sismics to be detected.
"We hit the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometers per hour, and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes," said InSight project manager Tom Hoffman at JPL. "During that short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform dozens of operations and do them flawlessly – and by all indications that is exactly what our spacecraft did."
… "Landing was thrilling, but I'm looking forward to the drilling," said InSight chief investigator Bruce Banerdt of [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory]. "When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments. Within two or three months, the arm will deploy the mission's main science instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instruments. "
This is actually not the first surface photo transmitted by InSight that has been released by NASA. Another released earlier on Monday was a blurry photo of the lander's dust-speckled lens cover, beyond which the Martian horizon can be seen.
– NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) November 26, 2018
InSight also deployed two tiny cubes named MarCO A and B before landing, which CNN reported were the first to be deployed to deep space. Neither craft was integral to the mission itself, according to the Los Angeles Times, but they did work flawlessly. MarCO B also transmitted an additional photo of Mars from orbit. The wholety of the two cubes' data will take two weeks to reach Earth. As their mission is complete, they will now enter an elliptical orbit around the Sun, although they are expected to continue operating for a few weeks.
We'll always have #Mars.
– NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) November 26, 2018
While those of us on Earth may have to wait some time to hear what InSight learns about his new home, it had a stunning introduction.
For NASA, other institutions that have contributed to its mission are listed below:
A number of European partners, including France's National Center for Spatial Studies (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight Mission. CNES, and the Institute of Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), provided the SEIS instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and JPL. DLR provided the HP3 instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronomy in Poland. Spain's Astrobiology Center (CAB) supplied the wind sensors.