NASA InSight lander touches down on Mars, sends back first photo

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The spacecraft NASA's InSight successfully landed on Mars.

NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet after an nearly seven-month, 300-million-mile (458-million-kilometer) journey from Earth. Because of the delay between Mars-Earth communications, it will take seven minutes for NASA to know whether the $425 million-dollar lander has successfully touched down...or crashed into the Martian surface.

The Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory celebrated the touchdown of the lander through a great applause after the landing was confirmed.

The main goal of the United States space agency's InSight mission-launched on May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California-is to give scientists a better understanding of the structure and geological activity of Mars. This landing attempt is a first for NASA's six years.

It's projected that it will take them about two weeks to test InSight's systems and its actuator arm, before they send the commands for the transfer of SEIS from the lander deck to the ground. The InSight will start to probe into Mars subsurface; giving researchers the first exclusive looked into the Red Planet's internal strata.

"Mars is on the cusp between being an active planet and a dead planet, in terms of its capacity to evolve", Bibring says.

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InSight, which stands for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport", is a stationary science platform with a suite of instrumentation that will work in concert to give the planet an "ultrasound".

NASA is the only space agency to have made it and is invested in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first Mars-bound human explorers in the 2030s.

It is early winter on Mars when InSight landed, with surface temperatures on Monday estimated to be 18 degrees Fahrenheit, before dropping to minus 140 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander's robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

The heat probe will also be placed on the planet's surface, but then it will dig itself about 16 feet deep into Mars' crust.

Scientists hope that the roughly $828 million mission will help answer questions about how rocky planets - including Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury - formed.

The answers are believed to have something to do with the as-yet unexplained absence, since Mars' ancient past, of either a magnetic field or tectonic activity, said NASA's chief scientist James Green.

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