Executive Intelligence Review


InSight Makes Successful Mars Landing, To Map the Interior of the Planet

Nov. 26, 2018 (EIRNS)—At 2:53 p.m. EST (19:53 UTC) today, NASA accomplished its eighth successful landing on Mars. The spacecraft’s entry and descent through the Martian atmosphere and the landing were observed by two tiny cubesats—the first to operate outside Earth orbit—that were launched with InSight and trailed behind it on the way to Mars. They sent back data of the landing from InSight in real time, as compared to NASA’s two orbiters—Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter—which would have to be in the right position to receive the data from InSight and then relay it back to Earth, often hours later. InSight has radioed that all is in order. The first photo sent back by the lander shows just what was expected—a featureless plain, providing a quiet environment for InSight’s subterranean experiments.

This mission will require much patience on the part of the scientists. It will take months to deploy and calibrate the instruments. Elizabeth Barrett from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained at a post-landing press conference that the team must “assess the health of the spacecraft and the instruments.” They will “deploy seismometers, and then deploy a wind and thermal shield for protection” of these extremely delicate instruments. They will “calibrate, and deploy the heat probe underground,” to measure the heat flow. This entire process takes two to three months. But InSight is designed to be operating on Mars for two Earth years (one Martian year), so there will be plenty of data.

The goal is to create a three-dimensional map of the interior of Mars.

At the press conference, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he had talked to the President and Vice President and that they are “overwhelmingly proud.” He said even people off the Earth were watching the mission, referring to the astronauts on the International Space Station.