NASA’s InSight explorer successfully touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018, after an almost seven-month journey through deep space. This is the eighth time in human history that NASA has executed a successful landing on the red planet and the first in six years.
The landing kicks off a two-year mission for the InSight lander to study Mars’ deep interior. Operated by NASA, the explorer is built by scientists in the United States, France, and Germany.
1. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It has been designed to study the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.
2. The lander’s two-year mission will be to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including the Earth and the Moon, were formed.
3. It was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 5, 2018. It touched down November 26 near Mars’ equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia.
4. The explorer will carry out mission objectives on the surface of Mars for a period of two years (one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days) till November 24, 2020.
5. The landing signal was relayed to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, through 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.
6. They are the first CubeSats sent into deep space. After successfully carrying out a number of communications and in-flight navigation experiments, the twin MarCOs were set in position to receive transmissions during InSight’s entry, descent, and landing.