The 8th Mars Landing with NASA’s InSight Mission Touchdown
Mars has a new robotic resident. NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander was successful in touching down after an almost seven-month, 300-million-mile (458-million-kilometer) journey from Earth.
The robot InSight’s mission for two years will be to study the deep interior of Mars. This will help add to the research about all planetary formations, studying the planet’s rocky core, and help us further understand how our own Earth and Moon were formed. It landed near Mars’ equator where a smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia is located.
Communication with the InSight is possible though NASA’s two small experimental satellites called Mars Cube One, or MarCO for short. These launched on the same rocket as InSight and followed the lander to Mars. They are the first “CubeSats” sent into deep space.
We hit the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph (19,800 kilometers per hour), and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes. During that short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform dozens of operations and do them flawlessly — and by all indications that is exactly what our spacecraft did.”
– InSight project manager Tom Hoffman at JPL
One of its first tasks will be to deploy its two decagonal solar arrays, which help to provide power to this machine. InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020.
That’s one giant leap for our intrepid, briefcase-sized robotic explorers. I think CubeSats have a big future beyond Earth’s orbit, and the MarCO team is happy to trailblaze the way.”
– Joel Krajewski, MarCO project manager at JPL
NASA has successfully soft-landed a vehicle on the Red Planet eight times. It is now discussing the possibility of sending the first man to Mars in the coming years. At the very least, NASA should team up with the Boston Dynamics robotics company and send their human-like machine, Atlas, to explore Mars. This machine would have the ability to travel across Mars’ treacherous terrain, as well as resist any harsh weather Mars wants to throw at it. Who knows, maybe we will find new life beneath the surface of the planet. Maybe we’ll have to send our own space pirate to explore and investigate.
Space: the final frontier… Our mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.
– Captain James T. Kirk of The Starship USS Enterprise