First Images From NASA’s Insight Lander
NASA’s latest effort to explore Mars, the InSight spacecraft, landed successfully on Monday, after a seven-month journey. The lander brought along a collection of scientific instruments, including a seismometer, which will be placed 16 feet underground and send back to Earth the first data from the interior of the planet. The lander quickly sent back a photo from the surface, showing that it was in a sandy spot, which is what NASA had been hoping for. “We’re trying to go back in time to the earliest times on our own planet … to find [on Mars] the fingerprints of those early processes that aren’t there on the Earth,” said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for the project. The oldest geological history of Earth has been erased by later processes, such as plate tectonics and erosion, which are less active on Mars. “We can use Mars as a time machine, to look back at the first few tens of millions of years after it was formed, and understand why the Earth became the way it is,” Banerdt said.
The first photo from the lander was sent back quickly, and showed the lens cover was covered with dust from the landing. The NASA team said they were glad to see the dust, as they were hoping for a soft landing site. The lens covers will be removed later this week. It will take about three months for the team to perform all the necessary tests and begin to deploy the instruments that InSight carried to Mars. Lockheed Martin was NASA’s principal partner on the project, and companies from Germany and France also contributed. In the end, everything went according to plan. “This was an amazing, amazing day,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. InSight is only the eighth spacecraft to land on Mars, and the first since 2012.