NASA's InSight craft successfully lands on Mars after 'seven minutes of terror'

NASA's InSight craft successfully lands on Mars after 'seven minutes of terror'

Landing on Mars isn't easy, due to its thin atmosphere. When spacecrafts descend, they have to slow down from 12,300 mph to 5 mph in seven minutes. NASA engineers refer to this period as "seven minutes of terror," as they wait for the lander to successfully touch the  surface or crash. The craft must deploy its parachute and landing legs, plus fire retro rockets to help decelerate. And since the actions are pre-programmed, there's nothing scientists can do but bite their nails and wait. Overall, Earth's missions to Mars have a 40% success rate.

Well, now that success rate just got a little bit higher. After traveling in space for seven months, NASA's InSight lander has successfully touched surface on the Red Planet. (USA! USA! USA!) Engineers prepared the craft to land during a dust storm, but luckily the Martian weather was good. Following the "perfect" landing, InSight sent NASA a successful "beep" plus a photo the surface. (Typical millennial spacecraft, always taking selfies.) Millions of people watched the landing live and the nerds at Mission Control celebrated like Eagles fans after the Super Bowl.

'InSight' is an acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. For the next two years, the lander will study the interior of the Red Planet.
Acting director of NASA's planetary science division Lori Glaze, stated that InSight "will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars's deep interior - information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home."

This information will come in handy, as NASA prepares to one day send astronauts to Mars. Engineers will learn how the Red Planet was formed, plus gain new insight about Earth's evolution."The small details in how planets evolve are what we think make the difference between a place like Earth where you can go on vacation and get a tan, and a place like Venus where you'll burn in seconds or a place like Mars where you'll freeze to death," stated InSight chief scientist Bruce Banerdt. 

So, go ahead and toast some champagne (or Tang) to the NASA engineers, who gave up their holiday weekend for this project. "While most of the country was enjoying Thanksgiving with their family and friends, the InSight team was busy making the final preparations for Monday's landing," InSight project manager Tom Hoffman told CNN. "Landing on Mars is difficult and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort."