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'Flawless': NASA's InSight lands on Mars after perilous journey

Updated : 2018-11-27 11:54:47

NASA's InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down safely on the surface of Mars on Monday with instruments to detect planetary seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth.

Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles burst into cheers, applause and hugs as they received signals confirming InSight's arrival on Martian soil - a vast, barren plain near the planet's equator - shortly before 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT)

Minutes later, JPL controllers received a fuzzy "selfie" photograph of the probe's new surroundings on the Red Planet, showing the edge of one lander leg beside a rock.

Watch parties for NASA's live television coverage of the event were held at museums, libraries and other public venues around the world, including Times Square, where a small crowd of 40 or 50 people braved pouring rain to witness the broadcast on a giant TV screen affixed to a wall of the Nasdaq building.

InSight's descent and landing, consisting of about 1,000 individual steps that had to be flawlessly executed to achieve success, capped a six-month journey of 301 million miles (548 million km) from Earth.

The spacecraft was launched from California in May on its nearly $1 billion mission. It will spend the next 24 months - about one Martian year - collecting a wealth of data to unlock mysteries about how Mars formed and, by extension, the origins of the Earth and other rocky planets of the inner solar system.

InSight and the next Mars rover mission, scheduled for 2020, are both seen as precursors for eventual human exploration of Mars, an objective that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Monday might be achieved as early as the mid-2030s.

InSight was the eighth spacecraft to have landed successfully on Mars, all of them operated by NASA.

Image Source: Associated Press (AP)/Reuters

NASA officials, from left, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, and Bruce Banerdt celebrate after the Mars landing of InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
NASA officials, from left, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, and Bruce Banerdt celebrate after the Mars landing of InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator, NASA JPL, talks about Mars InSight during a pre-landing briefing, Sunday, November 25, 2018 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the
Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator, NASA JPL, talks about Mars InSight during a pre-landing briefing, Sunday, November 25, 2018 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager, NASA JPL talks about the Mars InSight landing site during a pre-landing briefing, Sunday, November 25, 2018 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager, NASA JPL talks about the Mars InSight landing site during a pre-landing briefing, Sunday, November 25, 2018 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Brian Clement, Planetary Protection lead for MarCO, NASA JPL, talks about Mars Cube One (MarCO) during an Mars InSight pre-landing briefing, Sunday, November 25, 2018 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Brian Clement, Planetary Protection lead for MarCO, NASA JPL, talks about Mars Cube One (MarCO) during an Mars InSight pre-landing briefing, Sunday, November 25, 2018 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA chief scientist Jim Green talks about Mars InSight during a social media briefing Sunday, November 25, 2018, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. InSight is a Mars lander designed to study the
NASA chief scientist Jim Green talks about Mars InSight during a social media briefing Sunday, November 25, 2018, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. InSight is a Mars lander designed to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. InSight touched down on Mars on Monday afternoon, Eastern Standard Time. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Tim Priser, quality director at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, shows a small piece of the type of heat shield used on the Mars InSight, during a social media briefing Sunday, November 25, 2018, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Tim Priser, quality director at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, shows a small piece of the type of heat shield used on the Mars InSight, during a social media briefing Sunday, November 25, 2018, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks to multiple media outlets about Mars InSight, Monday, November 26, 2018, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The NASA spacecraft's six-month journey to Mars neared its dramatic grand finale on Monday in what scientists and engineers hoped would be a soft precision landing on flat red plains. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks to multiple media outlets about Mars InSight, Monday, November 26, 2018, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The NASA spacecraft's six-month journey to Mars neared its dramatic grand finale on Monday in what scientists and engineers hoped would be a soft precision landing on flat red plains. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Journalists gather at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory awaiting the landing of InSight on Mars on Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California . A NASA spacecraft is just a few hours away from landing on Mars. The InSight lander is aiming for a Monday afternoon touchdown on what scientists and engineers hope will be a flat plain on the red planet. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Journalists gather at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory awaiting the landing of InSight on Mars on Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California . A NASA spacecraft is just a few hours away from landing on Mars. The InSight lander is aiming for a Monday afternoon touchdown on what scientists and engineers hope will be a flat plain on the red planet. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Members of the media monitor the landing of InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California. The NASA InSight lander arrived successfully on Mars' surface. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Members of the media monitor the landing of InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California. The NASA InSight lander arrived successfully on Mars' surface. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
From left, NASA officials Jim Bridenstine, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, Bruce Banerdt, Andrew Klesh and Elizabeth Barrett make statements under a photograph sent from Mars by the InSight lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
From left, NASA officials Jim Bridenstine, Michael Watkins, Tom Hoffman, Bruce Banerdt, Andrew Klesh and Elizabeth Barrett make statements under a photograph sent from Mars by the InSight lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, November 26, 2018, in Pasadena, California (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
NASA JPL engineers Julie Wertz-Chen (L), and Aline Zimmer, (C), react after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
NASA JPL engineers Julie Wertz-Chen (L), and Aline Zimmer, (C), react after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
NASA's InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC) with the ICC image field of view of 124 x 124 degrees, on Mars, November 26, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS
NASA's InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC) with the ICC image field of view of 124 x 124 degrees, on Mars, November 26, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS
A life-size model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, is shown at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, US November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A life-size model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, is shown at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, US November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
NASA's InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in Mars' northern hemisphere, undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US, April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo
NASA's InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in Mars' northern hemisphere, undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US, April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with InSight Mars lander onboard before lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California, US, May 5, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with InSight Mars lander onboard before lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California, US, May 5, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo
The mission control team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) react on a video screen as the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, lands on the planet's surface after a six-month journey, in Pasadena, California, US November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The mission control team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) react on a video screen as the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, lands on the planet's surface after a six-month journey, in Pasadena, California, US November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The first picture sent back to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from the spaceship Insight is shown on a video screen at JPL in Pasadena, California, US November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The first picture sent back to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from the spaceship Insight is shown on a video screen at JPL in Pasadena, California, US November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Bruce Banerdt (C), InSight Principal Investigator, NASA JPL, Hallie Gengl, Data Visualisation Developer, NASA JPL, (R), and other NASA InSight team members celebrate after the first image of Mars from the Mars InSight lander are shown at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
Bruce Banerdt (C), InSight Principal Investigator, NASA JPL, Hallie Gengl, Data Visualisation Developer, NASA JPL, (R), and other NASA InSight team members celebrate after the first image of Mars from the Mars InSight lander are shown at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, November 26, 2018 NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
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