“My first picture on #Mars! My lens cover isn’t off yet, but I just had to show you a first look at my new home,” NASA tweeted, showing off the first image.
The InSight Lander entered Mars’ atmosphere just shortly after 2:40 p.m. EST and touched the surface at approximately 2:54 p.m. EST. The last part of the journey was the most harrowing, with NASA calling it “seven minutes of terror” due to the agency’s inability to control the landing of the spacecraft, which cost $828 million. Scientists determined that no additional changes were needed to the algorithm that will guide the spacecraft to the Martian surface.
The InSight’s landing on Monday ended a journey that lasted six months and covered more than 300 million miles.
Now that it is safely on the surface, the real excitement begins, according to Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. “Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars’ deep interior — information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home,” she said.
The unmanned probe, which was built by Lockheed Martin, will dig deeper into the planet than anything that’s come before.
Mars looms ever larger in America’s space future.
NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic. In an interview in 2016, the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut told Fox News that by 2040, astronauts could have visited Mars’ moon Phobos, which could serve as a sort of stepping stone to the Red Planet.
Last week, the space agency announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 Rover will land on the Red Planet. The Rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @chris_ciaccia