- Nov 12, 2016
- A chromatically corrected world
New Mars lander safely touches down. What happens now?
After a 205-day journey through space, NASA?s InSight lander is safely on the surface of Mars. Tasked with peering beneath the Martian surface and mapping the planet?s underworld, InSight touched down just before 3 p.m. ET in a sunny patch of boring landscape inside the equatorial plains of Elysium Planitia.
Anxious teams of scientists and engineers, clustered together at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, knew the spacecraft had survived its wild and tricky descent to the red planet?s surface after receiving data suggesting the lander had touched down safely?followed by an image from InSight itself showing a dusty, alien horizon with a single robot foot.
?This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind?s eye,? says JPL?s Rob Manning, a systems engineer on the InSight team.
But the spacecraft?s home team isn?t fully celebrating just yet: For its mission to succeed, InSight must also deploy its solar panels, and that confirmation signal won?t arrive for a few more hours.
Assuming it does, the spacecraft will officially be the newest member in an elite fleet of interplanetary robots currently exploring the red planet?including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which monitored InSight?s descent.