Yesterday, NASA's InSight lander touched down successfully on the martian surface in a flawless feat of engineering.
Now that InSight is on the ground, the company's role in the mission is done, but Wilson said the real payoff is when the scientific data starts coming back.
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"The reason why we're digging into Mars is to better understand not just Mars, but the Earth itself", said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.
NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission's primary objective will be to drill down below the Martian surface, taking temperature and seismology measurements to shed new light on activity of the red planet's core, mantle and crust with three unique instruments. The experiment which will map the interior structure of Mars and measure its rotation was developed in the United States. Just six minutes before it attempts a landing, it will have been traveling at 14,100 miles per hour. "We are well on our way to thoroughly investigate what's inside of Mars for the very first time".
Confirmation of a successful touchdown is not the end of the challenges of landing on the Red Planet.
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The spacecraft was launched from California in May on its almost US$1 billion mission. The MarCOs are also able to capture unique images as they pass by the Red Planet and some of its moons.
"This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints - we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond". Normally, this relaying is done using the already existing spacecraft such as NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or the European Space Agency's Mars Express. Just north of its equator, it's also a great place for InSight's solar panels to generate power for long periods. Back then, Mars then was much warmer and wetter, and might have been capable of harbouring early life.
Professor Tom Pike, from Imperial's Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, is part of the Mars Insight team.
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