NASA’s robotic InSight spacecraft, carrying a pair of European-built science instruments, successfully landed Monday on a broad, flat equatorial Martian plain named Elysium Planitia. Touchdown was confirmed at 2:54 p.m. EST (1954 GMT) to begin a science mission focused on studying the deep interior of Mars.
After a six-month voyage from Earth, NASA’s InSight Mars lander, streaking through space at at some 12,300 mph, will slam into the thin martian atmosphere Monday afternoon to begin a nail-biting six-and-a-half-minute descent to the surface, kicking off a billion-dollar mission to probe the red planet’s hidden interior.
After years of analyses and debate, NASA announced Monday that the agency’s next Mars rover will land on or near an ancient river delta where water once flowed into a 30-mile-wide, 1,600-foot-deep crater to search for signs of ancient microbial life and to continue ongoing studies of the red planet’s history and evolution.
Flight controllers have not heard from NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover since June 10 when an increasingly severe global dust storm blocked out the sun, preventing its solar arrays from recharging the robot’s batteries. But the dust storm is finally abating and engineers are hopeful the long-lived rover will wake up and phone home in the next few weeks.