After six long months of traveling through the void of space, NASA’s InSight lander successfully finished its journey to Mars today. Though attempting to land on the surface of Mars is never an easy thing, it seems that InSight’s arrival went about as well as could be expected. From here, scientists at NASA will begin preparing the lander for its primary mission: studying what’s going on beneath the surface of Mars.
While InSight isn’t unique in the fact that it’s successfully touched down on Mars, its mission certainly is. Though we’ve been exploring and studying the surface of Mars for decades, we’ve never studied what’s inside. InSight has been equipped with the tools necessary to do just that, and it’ll spend the next two to three months setting up that hardware.
So, it’s going to be a little while yet before InSight – which is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – is able to carry out its mission, which is expected to last two years. While we wait for everything to get set up, InSight will snap pictures of the surface of Mars and send them back to NASA. You can see the first of those images, which was shared by NASA on Twitter, below:
For those who have been following NASA’s exploration of Mars throughout the years, that probably isn’t the most exciting image, but it is confirmation that the lander has made it safely to its resting spot. “InSight’s view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is below the surface, where it will study Mars’ deep interior,” the accompanying tweet reads.
InSight’s view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is below the surface, where it will study Mars’ deep interior. pic.twitter.com/3EU70jXQJw
— NASA (@NASA) November 26, 2018
NASA hopes to use InSight to learn about how rocky planets like Earth and Mars formed. Once we have data on the Martian interior, NASA scientists may be able to better understand why Earth became a planet teeming with life while Mars did not, despite the fact that both planets are at least a little similar. We’ll be keeping an eye on what happens with InSight from here on out, so stay tuned.