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In Photos: NASA Control Room Celebrates InSight’s Mars Landing

The InSight lander landed successfully on the surface of Mars at 1:24 am IST on Tuesday, 27 November.

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NASA’s InSight Mars lander touched down successfully on the surface of the red planet at 1:24 am IST on Tuesday, setting off jubilation among scientists who had waited in white-knuckled suspense for confirmation to arrive across 100 million miles of space.

Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leapt out of their chairs, screaming, dancing and hugging, upon learning that InSight had arrived on Mars, the graveyard for a multitude of previous missions.

"Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller called out just before 3 pm EST, instantly dispelling the anxiety that had gripped the control room as the spacecraft made its six-minute descent.

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Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that had been trailing InSight throughout the six-month, 300-million-mile (482-million-kilometer) journey.

The two satellites not only transmitted the good news almost in real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4.5 minutes after landing.

The picture was speckled with dirt because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain around the spacecraft looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible — pretty much what scientists had hoped for.

Better photos are expected in the days ahead.

It was NASA's — indeed, humanity's — eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. NASA's Curiosity rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.

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InSight will be the first thorough checkup of Mars since the planet was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. It will give us a better understanding of the formation of rocky planets like Venus, Mercury and Earth, along with Mars itself.

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Topics:  NASA   Mars Landing   InSight mission 

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