NASA Control Room Erupts in Celebration Over Successful Spacecraft Touchdown on Mars

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While we wait for everything to get set up, InSight will snap pictures of the surface of Mars and send them back to NASA.

In this 2015 photo made available by NASA, a technician prepares the InSight spacecraft for thermal vacuum testing in its "cruise" configuration for its flight to Mars, simulating the conditions of outer space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. In less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, InSight will have to slowed from 12,300 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour before it gently lands on the surface of Mars, according to NASA.

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 3pm EST (4am Singapore time).

"Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. NASA's Curiosity rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.

"This is really good news", said Rob Manning, JPL's chief engineer.

"This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye", he said. "Sometimes things work out in your favour".

InSight, a $1 billion global project, includes a German mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 meters) to measure Mars' internal heat.

InSight's primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, created to record the slightest vibrations from "marsquakes" and meteor impacts around the planet.

This image made available by NASA shows the planet Mars.

Mars_InSight
Sight during landing. Image credit NASA

The British seismic measuring tool will help scientists understand the inside of Mars, which has not yet been studied in depth. In order to become fully functional, it still has to deploy its solar panels.

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russian Federation and other countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight.

The journey to Mars has been described by NASA engineers as "seven minutes of terror", as more landers have failed than have succeeded. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.

For eight minutes on Monday afternoon, a crowd in a museum gallery at the University of British Columbia watched in rapt silence as a livestream broadcast a NASA spacecraft descending into Mars.

Squeee, first photo from InSight! It will now operate from there for the next two years, trying to study the red planet. InSight has been equipped with the tools necessary to do just that, and it'll spend the next two to three months setting up that hardware.

"It's going to be awesome".

"We are solar-powered, so getting the arrays out and operating is a big deal", Hoffman said.

There are significant mysteries here, because while both Mars and the Earth were formed from the same stuff more than 4.5 billion years ago, they are now very different planets. Mars stopped changing, while Earth continued to evolve. Ultimately, by giving Mars an internal examination we'll be able to compare the Red Planet's composition with Earth's, greatly improving our understanding of how planets in our solar system-and even exoplanets orbiting other stars-actually form.

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