NASA’s InSight lander has touched down safely on Mars

The lander will be the first to study the Red Planet’s interior

InSight lander

TOUCHDOWN  This artist’s illustration shows a simulated view of the InSight lander about to touch down on Mars. The craft successfully landed on the Red Planet on November 26.


Editor’s note: This story will be periodically updated as new images are released.

NASA’s InSight lander touched down on Mars on November 26 for a study of the Red Planet’s insides.

“Touchdown confirmed, InSight is on the surface of Mars!” said Christine Szalai, a spacecraft engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in a live broadcast from mission control. The lander sent its first picture — which mostly showed the inside of the dust cover on its camera lens — shortly after landing.

The landing of InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, brings the total number of successful NASA Mars landings to eight. InSight touched down at about 2:55 p.m. Eastern time in a wide, flat plain called Elysium Planitia, near Mars’ equator. News of the landing was relayed by a pair of tiny satellites called MarCO that travelled to Mars with InSight as an in-house communications team (SN Online: 11/18/18).

Over the next Martian year (about two Earth years), InSight will use a seismometer to listen for “Marsquakes” and other seismic waves rippling through the planet (SN: 5/26/18, p. 13). The lander will also drill five meters into Mars’ surface to measure the planet’s internal heat flow, a sign of how geologically active Mars is today.

Mars surface
FIRST LOOK This is the InSight lander’s first picture of the surface of Mars. The protective cap covering the camera lens hasn’t been removed yet, so most of the image is speckled with dust, but you can also see a lander leg toward the bottom of the shot.NASA

Update, November 27, 2018: InSight has opened its solar panels and is charging its batteries. In the next few days, the Mars lander will stretch out its robotic arm and take photos of the ground so the InSight team can decide where to place its scientific instruments. The first image from the Instrument Deployment Camera, taken shortly after landing November 26 and beamed back at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, shows the spacecraft’s body, the folded-up robotic arm and the wide flat expanse of Elysium Planitia.

HOME SWEET HOME The first image from InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera, located on a folded-up robotic arm, shows the lander’s new home on Mars, Elysium Planitia. JPL-Caltech/NASA

Lisa Grossman is the astronomy writer. She has a degree in astronomy from Cornell University and a graduate certificate in science writing from University of California, Santa Cruz. She lives near Boston.

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