- 511 views
NASA's latest Mars craft makes nail-biting touchdown
NASA's Mars lander InSight touched down safely on the surface of the Red Planet on Monday to begin its two-year mission as the first spacecraft designed to explore the deep interior of another world. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles said the successful landing was confirmed by signals relayed to Earth from one of two miniature satellites that were launched along with InSight and flying past Mars when it arrived shortly before 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT). Members of the mission control team burst into applause and cheered in relief as they received data showing that the spacecraft had survived its perilous descent to the Martian surface. The landing capped a six-month journey of 301 million miles (548 million km) from Earth, following its launch from California in May. Minutes after the landing, JPL controllers received a fuzzy photograph of the probe's new surroundings on Martian soil. The 880-pound (360 kg) InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st U.S.-launched Mars mission, dating back to the Mariner fly-bys of the 1960s. Nearly two dozen other Mars missions have been sent from other nations.