BREAKING NEWS Arrested suspect identified in Red Bluff murder case Full Story
BREAKING NEWS Gridley City Administrator resigns after Council's closed session Full Story
SEVERE WX : Fire Weather Watch View Alerts

NASA's InSight Lander has Touched Down on Mars

After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars.

Posted: Nov 26, 2018 12:41 PM

(CNN) -- After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. A few minutes later, InSight sent the official "beep" to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed.

Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploded into celebratory applause and cheers after the touchdown was confirmed.

InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is going to explore a part of Mars that we know the least about: its deep interior. It launched May 5. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where the building blocks below the planet's surface that recorded its history.

To reach Mars, InSight cruised 301,223,981 miles at a top speed of 6,200 mph, while being followed by two cube satellites. The suitcase-size spacecraft, called MarCO, are the first cube satellites to fly into deep space. MarCO will try to share data about InSight when it enters the Martian atmosphere for the landing.

"We've studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry," said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system."

The landing
InSight robotically guided itself through the landing, outside of a few last minute tweaks by the entry, descent and landing team to the algorithm that guides the lander to the surface.

The landing itself is a tricky maneuver. NASA engineers don't call it "seven minutes of terror" for nothing. In less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, InSight slowed from 12,300 mph to 5 mph before it gently landed on the surface of Mars, according to NASA.

"While most of the country was enjoying Thanksgiving with their family and friends, the InSight team was busy making the final preparations for Monday's landing," said Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight's project manager. "Landing on Mars is difficult and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort."

Only 40% of missions sent to the Red Planet by any agency have been successful. Part of this is due to the thin Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of Earth's, so there's nothing to slow down something trying to land on the surface.

Like the Phoenix spacecraft, InSight will have a parachute and retro rockets to slow its descent through the atmosphere, and three legs suspended from the lander will try to absorb the shock of touching down on the surface.

But the engineers prepared the spacecraft to land during a dust storm if need be.

About 20 minutes before landing, InSight separated from the cruise stage that helped bring it all the way to Mars and turned to position itself for entering the atmosphere.

At 2:47 pm ET, the entry, descent and landing phase began, and InSight came blazing into the atmosphere at 12,300 mph. Peak heating of the protective heat shield reached 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit two minutes later. This is when the intense heat caused a temporary drop in the radio signal from the craft.

Then, the parachute deployed, the craft separated from the heat shield, deployed its three legs and activated radar to sense how far it is from the ground. After getting that radar signal, it separated from the remaining shell and parachute, firing its descent engines known as retrorockets to help slow it down even more.

In ballet-like fashion, InSight executed a gravity turn to make sure the lander was in the right position before touching down. It slowed down until it reached a consistent 5 mph. Then, it touched down at 2:54 pm ET.

Just before 3 p.m. ET, InSight sent a signal to let scientists on Earth know that it's alive and well.

"It's taken more than a decade to bring InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars — and even longer since I was first inspired to try to undertake this kind of mission," said Bruce Banerdt of JPL and InSight's principal investigator. "But even after landing, we'll need to be patient for the science to begin."

What happens next
InSight's science mission won't begin right away. It will take between two to three months for the robotic arm to place the mission's instruments on the surface. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's perspective and monitor the environment. Science data isn't expected until March.

Tuesday night, the Mars Odyssey orbiter should confirm that the spacecraft's solar arrays have unfurled.

InSight landed at Elysium Planitia, called "the biggest parking lot on Mars" by astronomers. Because it won't be roving over the surface, the landing site was an important determination. This spot is open, flat safe and boring, which is what the scientists want for a stationary two-year mission.

After landing, InSight will unfurl its solar panels and robotic arm and study the entire planet from its parking spot. It's along the Martian equator, bright and warm enough to power the lander's solar array year-round.

The suite of geophysical instruments on InSight sounds like a doctor's bag, giving Mars its first "checkup" since it formed. Together, those instruments will take measurements of Mars' vital signs, like its pulse, temperature and reflexes -- which translates to internal activity like seismology and the planet's wobble as the sun and its moons tug on Mars.

These instruments include the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures to investigate what causes the seismic waves on Mars the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package to burrow beneath the surface and determine heat flowing out of the planet and the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment to use radios to study the planet's core.

"Landing on Mars is exciting, but scientists are looking forward to the time after InSight lands," said Glaze. "Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars' deep interior — information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 886939

Reported Deaths: 17167
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2904866944
Riverside650561275
San Bernardino609451065
Orange576351423
San Diego53263863
Kern33551413
Fresno30220430
Sacramento24811474
Santa Clara23591382
Alameda22932435
San Joaquin21436484
Contra Costa18273238
Stanislaus17403394
Tulare17317279
Ventura13930160
Imperial12610336
San Francisco11969137
Monterey1115884
San Mateo10918157
Santa Barbara9671119
Merced9386153
Sonoma9016134
Kings817383
Solano720574
Marin7036127
Madera492873
San Luis Obispo408032
Placer402355
Yolo309958
Butte302651
Santa Cruz272524
Napa190814
Sutter182112
Shasta178629
San Benito141114
El Dorado13024
Yuba128010
Mendocino111121
Tehama7938
Lassen7611
Lake67815
Glenn6473
Nevada5988
Humboldt5609
Colusa5486
Calaveras33917
Amador31316
Tuolumne2574
Inyo21815
Siskiyou1860
Del Norte1751
Mono1752
Mariposa782
Plumas610
Modoc270
Trinity250
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 73°
Oroville
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 76°
Paradise
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 73°
Chester
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 49°
Red Bluff
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 73°
Willows
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 73°
Very strong winds and dry conditions are driving critical fire danger today. A Red Flag Warning for high fire danger, a Wind Advisory, and a Freeze Warning are all in effect for the start of your Thursday.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events