NASA's InSight probe successfully completed its soft landing on Mars on Monday after a six-month, 300-million-mile voyage. And it's already sending photos of the desolate Red Planet from its landing place on the Elysium Planitia courtesy of a post on Twitter's official feed reading: "There's a quiet beauty here. Eager to explore my new home.
InSight has already deployed its two decagal solar panels, which measure seven feet each and provide the vessel's operational power source. Its mission is to provide insight into how rocky planets like Mars form and evolve over time, and are equipped with instruments including a seismometer, a probe for excavator heat and radio science equipment.
According to a NASA statement, InSight will start collecting some data in its first week of operations, although its Earth-based team will primarily work on activating and calibrating their systems. One of the first tasks on its list is the deployment of a 5.9-foot robotic arm that will take photos of the Martian landscape, which will be completed in a few days. Many of their experiments will take time to develop, as NASA will require extensive data to decide where to deploy the seismometer and the excavator heat probe, and may have to wait even longer for any seismic activity to be detected.
"We hit the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 km / h, and the whole sequence of touching the surface took only six and a half minutes," said InSight project manager Tom Hoffman of JPL. "During that short time, InSight had to perform dozens of operations independently and do them without fail – and by all indications, that's exactly what our spacecraft did."
… "Landing was exciting, but I'm looking forward to drilling," said InSight's principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory]. "When the first images arrive, our engineering and science teams will begin to plan where to deploy our scientific instruments. Within two or three months, the arm will deploy the mission's main scientific instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Internal Structure (SEIS) and the Heat and Physical Properties (HP) Packet.3) instruments. "
This is not the first surface photo transmitted by InSight that was launched by NASA. Another launch, released on Monday, was a blurred picture of the dust-stained lens cover of the probe, beyond which the horizon of Mars can be seen.
InSight also deployed two tiny cubes called MarCO A and B before landing, which CNN reported were the first to be deployed in deep space. No craft was an integral part of the mission itself, according to the Los Angeles Times, but they worked perfectly. MarCO B also transmitted an additional photo of Mars from orbit. The entire data of the two cubesats will take two weeks to reach Earth. As their mission is complete, they will now enter an elliptical orbit around the Sun, although they must continue to operate for a few weeks.
While those of us on Earth might have to wait some time to hear what InSight learns about her new home, she has had an awesome introduction.
For NASA, other institutions that contributed to its mission are listed below:
Several European partners, including France's Center National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES and the Institute of Physics of the Paris Globe (IPGP) provided the SIX 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 UK, and JPL. DLR provided the HP3 instrument with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. The Spain's Astrobiology Center (CAB) provided the wind sensors.