Here's The InSight Lander's First Dusty Picture From The Martian Surface

NASA  JPL-Caltech

A camera on the InSight lander's lower deck snapped this initial picture of the spacecraft's surroundings on Mars, confirming the vehicle's systems were healthy after a fiery plunge through the red planet's atmosphere.

"Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars", said JPL director Michael Watkins.

By examining the interior of Mars, scientists hope to understand how our solar system's rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they turned out so different - Mars cold and dry, Venus and Mercury burning hot, and Earth hospitable to life.

InSight is expected to operate for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days-until November 24, 2020; the MarCOs' objectives were completed after their Mars flyby.

This illustration shows a simulated view of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander firing retrorockets to slow down as it descends toward the surface of Mars.

NASA's InSight Mars lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet, after an nearly seven-month, 300-million-mile journey from Earth.

Though Twitter was around for the August 2012 Curiosity landing, this landing day also serves as the culmination of Vice's "The New Space Race", a series that's been broadcasting live on the platform twice a week since the middle of October.

"Landing was thrilling, but I'm looking forward to the drilling", said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of JPL.

The InSight lander aimed for an afternoon touchdown, as anxiety built among those involved in the $1 billion global effort.

The landing signal was relayed to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, via one of NASA's two small experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, which launched on the same rocket as InSight and followed the lander to Mars.

The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the ultra-high-tech seismometer listens for possible marsquakes.

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But the USA has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades. Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core.

InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020.

Earth's success rate at Mars is 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the U.S., Russian Federation and other countries dating all the way back to 1960.

InSight could hand NASA its eighth win.

He said: "We hit the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph (19,800 kilometres per hour), and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes". The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russian Federation and other spacefaring countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight.

The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for.

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first Mars landing as the space agency's boss, said, "What an incredible day for our country".

Concentrating on planetary building blocks, InSight has no life-detecting capability. NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life.

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