CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Minutes after descending on Mars, NASA's spacecraft sent back a "nice and dirty" snapshot of its new dig. But the dusty image looked like a work of art for researchers.
The picture revealed a mostly smooth and sandy terrain around the spacecraft with only one big rock visible.
"I am very pleased that it looks like we have an incredibly safe and dull landing site," said project manager Tom Hoffman after Monday's touchdown. "That was exactly what we were supposed to do."
A better picture came hours later and more is expected in the coming days after the dust cover has emerged from the lander's cameras.
The spacecraft arrived in March after a dangerous, supersonic dunk through its red sky that took only six minutes.
"Touchdown-confirmed!" A flight control checked just before 3 pm EST, suspended jubilation among researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which had been waiting for testimonies for words to reach over 100 million miles (160 million miles) of space.
It was NASA's eighth successful landing on Mars since 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. NASA's curiosity rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on its way to Mars.
Due to the distance between Earth and March, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, forwarded by a pair of small satellites that had been inSight throughout the half-month, 300 miles (482 million miles) trip.
"Wrongly," explained JPL's engineer, Rob Manning. "Sometimes things work to your advantage."
InSight, an international project of $ 1 billion, contains a German mechanical mole that will descend 16 meters (5 meters) to measure Mars's internal heat. The landlord also has a French seismometer for measuring shakes, if available on our smaller, geologically calmer neighbor. Another experiment will calculate Mars wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core.
At the end of Monday, NASA reported that the spacecraft's important solar collectors were open and charged their batteries.
During the nearest "suns" – or the 24-hour Martian day, 39 1/2 minutes – the air traffic control will assess the health of InSight's serious robot arm and its scientific instruments. It will take months to set up and fine-tune the instruments, and lead researcher Bruce Banerdt said he did not expect to start getting a stream of solid data until late next spring.
Banerdt called InSight's first snapshot of the surface the first part of science, albeit "nice and dirty". He said the image would be cleaned and the black spots would disappear. That photo came from a camera lying on the lander. Late Monday, NASA released a clean photo taken by a higher camera that showed part of the lander and the landscape.
InSight 800 pounds (360 pounds) is stationary and will work from the same location in the next two years, the duration of a March-year.
"In the coming months and years, historical books will be written about Mars," says JPL director Michael Watkins.
NASA went with its old, straight-line approach this time using parachute and brake engines to get InSights speed from 12,300 km / h when the pierced martens atmosphere, about 77 miles (114 miles) up, to 5 mph (8 km / h) at touchdown. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn in the atmosphere or bounce off it.
Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the United States, Russia and other countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of only 40 percent, and are not counted with InSight.
The three-legged InSight settled on the west side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA aimed at.
Museums, planetariums and libraries throughout the United States were watching festivals to watch the events on JPL. NASA TV coverage was also shown on the giant screen in New York Times Square, where crowds huddled under umbrellas in the rain.
"What a wonderful day for our country," said Jim Bridenstine, chairing his first Mars landing as NASA's boss.
Mars's well-preserved interior gives a snapshot of what land may have looked after the creation 4.5 billion years ago, according to Banerdt. While the earth is active seismically, Mars decided to rest on his laurels "after it was formed, he said.
By investigating and mapping the Mars frame, scientists hope that the rocky planets in our solar system proved so different and why the Earth became a haven for life.
There are still no life detectors aboard InSight. NASA's next mission, the March 2020 Rover, will be a prowl for rocks that can provide proof of old life. The question of whether life ever existed in Mars's wet, watery past is what continues to drive NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.
After InSight landed, the two experimental satellites dropped over Mars, their main job. One last photo was taken on the red planet to satellite chief engineer Andy Klesh, titled "farewell to InSight … farewell to Mars."
For the AP's full coverage of the Mars Landing: https://apnews.com/MarsLanding
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