Our latest Mars probe landed successfully today, after a 7 month journey from it’s launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Designed to study the physical structure of Mars, the probe will look for water, and use super-sensitive seismometers to study the planet’s interior. It will drill down into the ground beneath the lander to help scientists explore the mantle and core of Mars.

The image above is the first to be returned from the probe, moments after landing. The clear dust cover will be removed later, and allow an unimpeded view of the lander’s surroundings. The splotches in this image are debris and dust kicked up by the lander’s rocket engines as the probe touched down on the surface.

This mission included a new feature for interplanetary missions, the MarCOs. Mars Cube One and Mars Cube Two are minature ‘cube sats’ that were launched along with the Insight probe. Both satellites followed the main spacecraft to Mars after being launched on the same rocket. Once at Mars, they relayed spacecraft telemetry in real time, permitting the NASA team at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to track the mission as it happened. This success will lead to future cube sat missions to study the solar system.

The next activity is for the Insight lander to unfurl it’s solar panels to power the vehicle, scheduled for around 5pm, Pacific Time. After confirmation that all systems are operating as designed, science will begin.

We’re on Mars again!

P.S. The Curiosity rover is six years into it’s mission, still exploring the surface of Mars as it slowly climbs up a mountain. The Opportunity rover, fourteen years into a ninety day mission, is in limbo, as we wait to see if it can be recovered from it’s current silence. Opportunity was last heard from on June 10, 2018, and has been silent after a planet-wide dust storm on Mars. NASA/JPL continues attempts to regain contact with the rover. Contact with the Spirit rover was lost on March 22, 2010.

Image: NASA/JPL – from the surface of Mars 11-26-2018