On monday NASA’s InSight lander completed a seven-month journey across nearly 500 million kilometers of deep space, finally making land-fall on the Red Planet.
In a brilliant climax the Insight lander collided with the Martian atmosphere at speeds reaching almost 20,000 kilometers per hour
After deploying a heatshield, ejecting supersonic parachutes and launching retrorockets to reduce speed, overall acceleration dropped to a slow jogging pace. After covering around 130 kilometers of atmospheric density NASAs 850 million dollar trip to Mars culminated in a soft landing on Elysium Planitia around 2:50 pm EST.
Minutes later InSight broadcasted the first color image back to Earth, using the MarCO relay, depicting a barren landscape through a layer of dust that had accumulated on the Camera lens.
Elysium Planitia, is near to the equator offering a temperate (from the perspective of mars) environment for studying the planets seismic and geological behavior. NASA picked this LZ because of it is free of rock and other obstacles that could obscure landing attempts.
InSight stands for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport,” and it is not a rover. Instead, Insight was built to carry out observations from the exact location it landed in. Of those observations include giving the planet an “ultrasound”, and drilling into the surface.
“The main goal of InSight is to understand what the fundamental makeup is of Mars, as in how large the core is, how large the mantle is and how large the crust is,” says Tom Hoffman, project manager for InSight at JPL. “We’re doing that largely with a seismometer detecting ‘marsquakes.’”