NASA's InSight landing and the crazy odds behind getting to Mars
Tonight, Insight has landed.
Mars's latest visitor has officially touched down, and it's ready to start its two-year mission to survey the interior of the red planet.
But now that it's arrive safe and sound, can we all talk about how freaked out we were?
Also, the big question, who invented that special NASA handshake?
I'm Claire Reilly.
Welcome to Watch This Space.
From the senate studios in Sydney, this is your weekly guide to everything on earth you need to know about space.
And tonight NASA has safely landed its Insight mission 91 million miles away on the surface of Mars.
What have you done this week?
That's right the team of scientists at NASA JPL flew a 789 pound lander over 269,000,000 miles to another planet.
It hit the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour.
Entered at the perfect angle, then slowed down, deployed a parachute and blasted out its own legs with pyrotechnics to ensure a perfect touchdown.
All this done with preprogrammed commands and no control from Earth.
Talk about the ultimate look Mom no hands.
But it worked.
Shortly before noon Pacific time on Monday the 26th of November, it all went off without a hitch.
And InSight landed.
Touch down confirmed.
Okay, there's a few thigs we need to get out of the way.
First off, that countdown.
[UNKNOWN] descending, we're hearing [UNKNOWN] countdown as it gets closer and closer to the surface, you couldn't write it better if you're in Hollywood.
80 meters, 60 meters.
But the best part of the countdown was easily the Insight telecom team.
One of them looks like they're about to go to Disneyland, the other one is just sitting there, watching the culmination of his life's work, lower lip quivering.
Just roll the tape.
50 meters constant velocity, 37 meters, 30 meters, 20 meters, 17 meters.
Standing by for touchdown.
There is literally no way to watch that and not weep like a child.
Whether you're watching in Times Square or sitting at your kitchen table in Austrailia watching the live feed, eating peanut butter out of a jar and openly crying at 7 AM.
Not that I know.
Touch down confirmed Aah!
Also let's talk about that handshake.
You just know that between getting an entire mission to another planet.
These took the time out to come up with the world's best call sign for the NASA secret super friend.
But [UNKNOWN] the celebrations were kind of [UNKNOWN] because while J P L were watching back here on earth the landing had already happened.
It takes about eight minutes for signals to reach Earth from mars.
So while we were biting our nails down here [UNKNOWN] had already landed up there it was just chilling out drinking [UNKNOWN] And quite frankly, it deserves to.
According to NASA, only about 40% of all missions sent to Mars have been successful because it's hard work.
Which leads us to, the 7 minutes of terror.
That's the term that NASA uses to describe the time it takes to get from the top of the Marsian atmosphere, down to the surface of the planet.
It takes thousands of steps [UNKNOWN] to go from a top of the atmosphere to the surface.
And each one of them has to work perfectly to be a successful mission.
And for all that time remember, we're on a delay so while we're watching the most difficult part of the mission go down, it's already happened.
When we first get word that we've touched the top of the atmospher,
The vehicle has been alive or dead on the surface for at least seven minutes.
Wow I feel so invested.
I don't know about you but NASA makes damn good TV.
So what exactly happened in those seven minutes that made it so terrifying for the inside mission?
According to NASA, it takes thousands of steps to go to the top of the atmosphere to the surface of Mars during the entry, descent and landing stage.
First, InSight needs to ditch the crew stage that got it to Mars and turn around so its heat shield faces the atmosphere.
It needs to enter in a precise angle of 12 degrees so it doesn't burn up or bounce off the atmosphere altogether.
After decelerating from 13,000 to 1,000 miles an hour, InSight deploys a parachute, blast off its heat shield, and then shoots out three legs ready for landing.
The spacecraft uses radar to measure how far it is from the surface of Mars.
And once it's a mile away, the parachute separates from the lander and the lander starts its engine to safely descend to the surface.
Before shutting them off as soon as it touches down.
So if all the steps of entry, descent, and landing happen perfectly, and we are safely on the surface of Mars, we'll be ready to do some exciting New science.
The good news?
All those steps went off without a hitch.
After flying through space alone for more than six months with its commands preprogrammed inside, Insight did us proud and made the perfect landing all by itself.
All that while its parents waited nervously 90 million miles away.
So, what's next?
Well, Insight is already sending us back postcards from its new home.
And from here, the lander is going to probe deeper into Mars than ever before to learn more about its core, as well as measuring seismic activity and measuring how much the planet shift on its axis.
From this we'll learn more about the origins of Mars, and even get insight into how Earth was formed.
Yeah, it kinda worth putting up with all the terror for that.
All right, that's it for this week's edition of Watch This Space.
If you want to know more about InSight and the science behind the mission, check out last week's episode.
If you want to stay up to date with space news as it happens, be sure to watch and subscribe.
I'm Claire Reilly for CNet.
Good night and godspeed.
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