NASA's InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander created to study the deep interior of the Red Planet, touched down safely on the surface of Mars on Monday. Built by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, InSight will measure the frequency and intensity of Marsquakes, with mission scientists expecting to see between 12 and 100 Marsquakes during the two-year mission.
As of this writing, all of the probe's systems are operating as expected.
Lockheed Martin has been an industry partner with NASA and the JPL for more than four decades in the exploration of the surface of Mars.
The photos were captured by the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) installed within InSight.
The first image that came back was a smudged, fish-eye lense view of Mars.
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The lander is on Mars with the intention of gaining further insight into the planet by studying its deep interior. "Ultimately, this will contribute to the knowledge of how all rocky planets formed". The landing itself saw InSight slow from 12,300 miles per hour to just 5 miles per hour before touching down on the surface.
You can find more information on NASA's Mars mission here. The arm deploys the heat flow probe - a mole that burrows 16 feet (five meters) into the ground.
A Marsquake detector designed in part by Imperial engineers is set to help reveal Mars' inner structure.
The spacecraft was launched from California in May on its almost US$1 billion mission.
The area where InSight is landing is called Elysium Planitia, a particularly flat area of Mars where hazardous loose rocks are absent.
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Associate Professor Alan Duffy, research fellow at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology, said that the successful landing was a colossal achievement. Traveling at its maximum speed, it would take Curiosity 3,000 days or just under eight and a half years to reach InSight. In fact, these satellites transmitted InSight's first look at its surroundings nearly immediately after the probe safely landed.
To confirm landing NASA tweeted the first image from the InSight on-board camera.
InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies. Even after completing 99.8 percent of its journey, Mars is still only three pixels across to the two CubeSats.
The twin "Cubesats" tagging along for the flight to Mars represented the first deep-space use of a miniature satellite technology that space engineers see as a promising low-priced alternative to some larger, more complex vehicles.
How will NASA know when InSight lands safely? They have the potential to both cut mission costs as well as provide a new platform for scientific observations.
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Only 40% of missions to the planet have succeeded and all have been US-led.