On Monday, NASA successfully landed its InSight lander on Mars, relaying back its first photo minutes later as it begins its two-year exploration.
InSight, which spent nearly a decade in development, ultimately cost about $1 billion. Its 3 p.m. touchdown marked the first time in six years that a NASA spacecraft has landed on the red planet. More than half of all missions to Mars fail to land successfully, and that's just one obstacle along the Odyssean route to the planet: transmission complications mean scientists can only watch on an eight-minute delay as things either go according to plan — or not.
Before it could land, InSight also had to survive the “seven minutes of terror,” a series of risky moves necessary to reach the Elysium Planitia region of Mars, about 400 miles from the Curiosity Rover. InSight will be the first Mars-based mission focused on the planet’s interior, where its stationary lander will drill about 16 feet below the surface.
Earlier in the day, VICE News spent time with the NASA team that sent InSight to Mars, including Matt Golombek, InSight’s landing site lead.
“InSight has solar power, so it needs to be near the equator so it has enough power to last throughout the year as the seasons change,” Golombek told VICE News.
Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator behind NASA’s InSight mission, told VICE News earlier Monday that he was confident the probe would successfully land.
“I’m pretty excited, pretty nervous but really feeling good about where we are with this mission,” Banerdt said. “Everything seems ready to land.”
Cover image via NASA