This latest successful mission to Mars is a welcome demonstration of the power of human foresight and scientific planning, in the face of the promotion of irrationalism and anti-science prejudice by both the political right and the pseudo-left. "That's exactly what we were going for".
The robotic geologist - created to explore Mars' insides, surface to core - must go from 19,800 km/h to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and, hopefully, lands on three legs. All this for a mere $830 million, less than the cost of one of the U.S. military's almost two dozen B-2 stealth bombers.
"MarCO-A and B are our first and second interplanetary CubeSats created to monitor InSight for a short period around landing, if the MarCO pair makes it to Mars", Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division, said in a statement. The spacecraft is expected to take more photos of the landing site and send them back to Earth, where scientists will use them to decide where the probe should place its instruments.
"In the coming months and years even, history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars", said JPL's director, Michael Watkins. Just six minutes before it attempts a landing, it will have been traveling at 14,100 miles per hour. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.
The Insight lander touched down near Mars' equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia.
Watch parties for Nasa's live television coverage of the event were held at museums, libraries and other public venues around the world, including Times Square, where a small crowd of 40 or 50 people braved pouring rain to witness the broadcast on a giant television screen affixed to a wall of the Nasdaq building. "It was intense, and you could feel the emotion", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a NASA livestream about the landing's success. It took eight minutes for the team back home to get the information form Mars.
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. InSight will also send a "tone beacon" when it touches down on Mars, and again seven minutes later, but much more loudly. While Earth is active seismically, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after it formed, he said.
InSight is created to detect Marsquakes. In fact, these satellites transmitted InSight's first look at its surroundings nearly immediately after the probe safely landed. That's deeper than any instrument that has ever been to Mars.
Earlier research unit InSight of the American space Agency NASA gave the Mars first the planet, but he was not quite good because of the dusty glass of the device.