NASA engineers celebrated InSight landing with National Football League handshake

NASA engineers celebrated InSight landing with National Football League handshake

NASA engineers celebrated InSight landing with National Football League handshake

"This has important implications beyond just these two neighbors [Mars and Earth], as we are now discovering thousands of exoplanets around other stars, some of which may be quite similar to Earth or Mars in terms of size, location and composition", said Jack Singal, a physics professor at the University of Richmond and a former NASA astrophysics researcher. "So we have to hang in there through all the anxious moments all the way up until that final announcement", said Fred Wilson, director of business development at Aerojet Rocketdyne, speaking on KUOW's The Record.

"This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints - we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond".

After the photo was snapped, InSight transmitted the image back to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Future deep space missions are now expected to increasingly adopt this technology. With the fins folded out, InSight is about the size of a big 1960s convertible, NASA said.

In the coming days, the mission team will unstow InSight's robotic arm and use the attached camera to snap photos of the ground so that engineers can decide where to place the spacecraft's scientific instruments. But InSight is expected to yield the first meaningful data on planetary seismic tremors beyond Earth. When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments.

How is NASA's InSight powered?

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"Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars", JPL director Michael Watkins said after the landing. The experiment which will map the interior structure of Mars and measure its rotation was developed in the United States.

There's still quite a lot that needs to happen before the mission can be considered a success.

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. Over the next few "sols" - or Martian days of 24 hours, 39½ minutes - flight controllers will assess the health of InSight's all-important robot arm and its science instruments.

This whole unpacking process as InSight settles into its new home will take about two to three months as the instruments begin functioning and sending back data. Unlike the rovers already on the Martian surface, InSight will stay put during its planned two-year mission.

NASA's InSight is created to learn about both Mars and the formation of the solar system itself. The question of whether life ever existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.

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