Washington: NASA successfully touched the InSight lander down on the surface of Mars on Monday, with a room of Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers breaking into applause after several breathtaking minutes.
The InSight spacecraft relayed back to NASA’s control room that it landed and was functioning as expected. Vice President Mike Pence “watched the whole thing” and called Bridenstine right after the landing succeeded, as Pence “is absolutely ecstatic about our program,” Bridenstine said.
“There’s a reason engineers call landing on Mars ‘seven minutes of terror,'” Rob Grover, the lead for InSight’s entry, descent and landing team at at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement before the landing attempt.
After six and a half months of traveling through space, InSight hit the top of Mars’ atmosphere a little before 3PM ET. It then made a daring descent to the surface, performing a complex multi-step routine that slowed the lander from more than 12,000 miles per hour to just 5 miles per hour before it hit the ground.
To get to the surface safely, InSight had to autonomously deploy a supersonic parachute, gather radar measurements, and ignite its thrusters all at the right time. Altogether, the landing took just under seven minutes to complete, prompting the nickname “seven minutes of terror.”