After cruising along behind NASA’s InSight for seven months, they successfully relayed data back down to Earth from the lander during its descent to the Martian surface on Monday, Nov. 26.
The spacecraft landed around 12:00 p. m. PST on Mars after traveling for six months. For the first time in almost a year, the Dawn mission control room at JPL is aglow with blue. Beresheet is also carrying a device to measure the moon’s magnetic fields. “We are proud of their accomplishment. After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history”, said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is going to explore a part of Mars that we know the least about: its deep interior.
“The science team had been hoping to land in a sandy area with few rocks since we chose the landing site, so we couldn’t be happier”, said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL.
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.
“The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries”, said Hoffman. InSight landed at Elysium Planitia, called “the biggest parking lot on Mars” by astronomers. Yet another experiment will calculate Mars’ wobble, providing clues about the planet’s core. “Landing was thrilling, but I’m looking forward to the drilling”, said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of JPL.
NASA has achieved a first for the class of tiny spacecraft known as CubeSats, which are opening new access to space. NASA’s MarCO mission was built to see whether two experimental, briefcase-sized spacecraft could survive the trip to deep space, and the two CubeSats proved more than able. In the coming days, the mission team will unstow InSight’s robotic arm and use the attached camera to snap photos of the ground so that engineers can decide where to place the spacecraft’s scientific instruments. InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until Nov. 24, 2020.
The Mars Cube One spacecraft are the first-ever interplanetary CubeSats. By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life. Mars’ well-preserved interior provides a snapshot of what Earth may have looked like following its formation 4.5 billion years ago.
MarCO is mostly made up of early-career engineers and, for many, MarCO is their first experience out of college on a NASA mission, said Joel Krajewski of JPL, MarCO’s project manager.
CubeSats have incredible potential to carry cameras and science instruments out to deep space” , said John Baker, JPL’s program manager for small spacecraft.
As MarCO-A flew by, it conducted some impromptu radio science, transmitting signals through the edge of Mars’ atmosphere. They’ll never replace the more capable spacecraft NASA is best known for developing. But they’re low-cost ride-alongs that can allow us to explore in new ways. As a bonus, some consumer-grade cameras aboard MarCO provided “drive-by” images as the CubeSats sailed past Mars. After the landing, MarCO-B turned backward to take a farewell shot of the Red Planet ( before launch, MarCO-A’s cameras were found to be either non-functioning or too blurry to use ).
“WALL-E sent some great postcards from Mars”! said Cody Colley of JPL, MarCO’s mission manager, who led the work to program each CubeSat to take images. It’s been exciting to see the view from almost 1,000 miles ( 1,600 kilometers ) above the surface.
With the mission’s objectives reached, the MarCO team will spend the next couple of weeks collecting additional data on each CubeSat. Also, more data from the probe’s initial encounter will be forthcoming next year following its next approach. Of interest will be how much fuel is left in each CubeSat and detailed analyses of how their relay capability performed.
No spacecraft has attempted anything like that before. InSight, a $ 1 billion international project, includes a German mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet ( 5 meters ) to measure Mars’ internal heat. No life detectors are on board. Earth’s success rate at Mars is a mere 40 percent. Like Earth, Mars wobbles a little as it rotates around its axis. It displays the lander’s solar panels and deck. The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in almost real time, they also sent back InSight’s first snapshot of Mars just 4½ minutes after landing. That bottom is a crucial heat shield that is designed to protect the probe as it passes through the thin Martian atmosphere.
Four days after its epic touchdown on the red planet, NASA’s InSight Mars lander has snagged the clearest view of its new home yet. They have already travelled 399 million kilometres. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory manages the New Horizons mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA says InSight’s “data also will help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own”.