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Incredible first images of Mars from Nasa’s Insight probe after ‘seven minutes of terror’ landing on Red Plane – The Sun

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INCREDIBLE first snapshots from Nasa's InSight spacecraft on Mars reveal a smooth and rocky terrain.

The images have been sent after scientists waited in white-knuckle suspense during the probe’s risky “seven minutes of terror” landing on the Red Planet.

 This NASA photo shows an image on Mars that its spacecraft called InSight acquired using its robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) after it landed on the planet on Monday, November 26

AP:Associated Press

This NASA photo shows an image on Mars that its spacecraft called InSight acquired using its robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) after it landed on the planet on Monday, November 26
NASA’s first spacecraft InSight designed to delve deep into a distant world is on course to land on Mars after six-month voyage

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.

Travelling 301 million miles (548 million km) from Earth, the robot's nearly seven-month voyage ended in a dramatic plunge as it reached the Red Planet at 7.50pm on Monday.

Nasa's mission control in California erupted with joy after it became apparent that InSight had safely arrived.

The final seven minutes were particularly tense as the craft navigated the thin Martian atmosphere, that provides little friction to slow down.

 The first picture of the red planet from this groundbreaking mission

AFP or licensors

The first picture of the red planet from this groundbreaking mission
 Flight team members give each other high-fives during a press conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory after the InSight spacecraft mission made its successful landing

EPA

Flight team members give each other high-fives during a press conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory after the InSight spacecraft mission made its successful landing

Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bull's-eye, but Nasa did not have yet have the final calculations.

He said that it was hard to tell from the first photo whether there were any slopes nearby, but that it appeared he got the flat, smooth "parking lot" he was hoping for.

Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that had been trailing InSight throughout the six-month, 300-million-mile (482-million-kilometre) journey.

The two satellites not only transmitted the good news in almost real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just four minutes after landing.

 The mission control team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory cheers as InSight lands on the planet's surface after nearly seven months in transit

Reuters

The mission control team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory cheers as InSight lands on the planet's surface after nearly seven months in transit
High fives, fist bumps and hugs in Nasa's control room as InSight probe lands on Mars

The picture was speckled with dirt because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain around the spacecraft looked smooth and sandy with just one sizeable rock visible – which was pretty much what scientists had hoped for.

Better photos are expected in the days ahead, after the dust covers come off.

Rob Manning, Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s chief engineer, hailed the successful landing as “flawless. This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye. Sometimes things work out in your favour."

It was Nasa's – indeed, humanity's – eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years.

Nasa's Curiosity rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.

Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first landing of the Red Planet as the space agency's boss, said: "What an amazing day for our country."

 The Mars InSight lander is loaded with powerful technology to collect data and protect against the harsh Martian environment
The Mars InSight lander is loaded with powerful technology to collect data and protect against the harsh Martian environment

Seven hours after touchdown, the agency reported that InSight's vital solar panels were open and recharging its batteries.

Over the next few "sols" or Martian days of 24 hours, 39 minutes, flight controllers will also assess the health of InSight's all-important robot arm and its science instruments.

Three UK-made seismometer instruments are on board the spacecraft, part of a £4 million UK Space Agency effort to measure "marsquakes" on the planet.

Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said: “It is wonderful news that the InSight spacecraft has landed safely on Mars.

"The UK scientists and engineers involved in this mission have committed several years of their lives to building the seismometer on board, and the descent is always a worrying time.

"We can now look forward to the deployment of the instrument and the data that will start to arrive in the new year, to improve our understanding of how the planet formed.”

 The spacecraft travelled 301million miles from Earth to land on Mars

AP:Associated Press

The spacecraft travelled 301million miles from Earth to land on Mars

The robot will be the first probe which will focus solely on understanding Mars' interior, right from its core to its crust.

A second instrument will burrow five metres into the ground of Mars, measuring the planet's temperature, while a third experiment will determine how Mars wobbles on its axis.

InSight's 77-mile descent to the surface was slowed by atmospheric friction, a giant parachute and retro rockets. When it finally landed 6-1/2 minutes later, it was travelling at a mere 5 mph (8 kmh).

The stationary probe, launched from California in May, then paused for 16 minutes for the dust to settle around the landing site before its disc-shaped solar arrays unfurl to provide power.

The location on the Elysium Planitia area north of its equator has been described as an ideal spot for its flat, rockless surface.

 Project manager Tom Hoffman points to the first picture sent back to Earth from Mars by the spaceship InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California

Reuters

Project manager Tom Hoffman points to the first picture sent back to Earth from Mars by the spaceship InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California
 Astronauts on the International Space Station congratulate Michael Watkins (left), JPL director, project manager Tom Hoffman and scientists Bruce Banerdt and Andrew Klesh (R) after the landing of the spacecraft

Reuters

Astronauts on the International Space Station congratulate Michael Watkins (left), JPL director, project manager Tom Hoffman and scientists Bruce Banerdt and Andrew Klesh (R) after the landing of the spacecraft
 NASA employees react with delight as the first images come in from the InSight spacecraft mission

EPA

NASA employees react with delight as the first images come in from the InSight spacecraft mission
 Hurrah! NASA employees celebrate after InSight completes the first landing on the planet in six years

AP:Associated Press

Hurrah! NASA employees celebrate after InSight completes the first landing on the planet in six years
 InSight comes equipped with powerful sensors and large solar panels the size of ping-pong tables

eyes.jpl.nasa.gov

InSight comes equipped with powerful sensors and large solar panels the size of ping-pong tables

It lies roughtly 373 miles (600 km) from the 2012 landing spot of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity, the last spacecraft sent to the Red Planet by NASA.

The smaller, 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 Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. Nearly two dozen other Mars missions have been sent from other nations.

This two-year £633million mission aims to shine new light on how the Red Planet was formed and its deep structure, by mapping its core, crust and mantle.

To achieve this, the probe is fitted with powerful sensors and equipment to help collect data.

There are solar panels the size of ping-pong tables, and a five-foot robotic arm with grasping fingers.

 An artist's impression of NASA's InSight landing on the red planet

PA:Press Association

An artist's impression of NASA's InSight landing on the red planet

InSight also has a thermometer nicknamed the "Mole", which will burrow 16ft down below the Martian surface to take subterranean temperature readings.

The lander is also equipped with wind and heat sensors, which help operate the thermal and wind shields – to protect against damage.

Only 40 per cent of missions to the planet have succeeded and all have been US-led.

Do you think you'll get the chance to visit Mars one day? Let us know in the comments!


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