Monday afternoon's touchdown was preceded by a series of complicated maneuvers as InSight made its way through Mars' atmosphere.
After waiting in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive from space, flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in that the three-legged InSight spacecraft had successfully touched down.
The internet fell in love immediately.
What counts most at the moment though is that InSight is precisely where it's supposed to be-on Mars's Elysium plain, just north of the equator; and that it's there precisely when it was supposed to be-205 days after its May 5 launch. They found that, for this region, craters as wide as 100 meters didn't appear to throw up any large rocks, meaning the upper 10 meters of this region is composed mainly of fine material, such as small stones, sandy material and dust, that would pose no insurmountable barriers for InSight's "mole". Its data also will help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own. This can provide information on the planet's core, including whether or not it's liquid and whether it contains elements other than iron.
Mars once had flowing rivers and lakes, but the deltas and lakebeds are now dry. Meanwhile, heat travelling from the interior of the planet could help inform scientists as to its composition.
"In this way, seismology is like taking an X-ray of the interior of Mars". While it'll be some time before that happens, space enthusiasts have something to analyze in the interim: InSight's first photograph of Mars, which can be seen below. Being completely solar-powered, this is an important activity that ensures the lander has all the power it needs. The heat shield was also dumped.
The first image has already been beamed down Earth by the lander.
"InSight is the first mission sent to look at the interior of Mars", Tanya Harrison, Director of Research for the NewSpace Initiative, Arizona State University, told Gizmodo.
Together, the instruments will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "That's phenomenal-it's as close as you can get to magic and still be science".
"Landing on Mars is exciting, but scientists are looking forward to the time after InSight lands", said Glaze. "Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system".