NASA’s robotic InSight lander, designed to dig deep into the rocky surface of Mars to reveal its secrets, has successfully touched down on the red planet after a supersonic plunge through its rose-hued atmosphere, the US space agency said on Tuesday.
The lander sent signals indicating that its solar panels are open and collecting sunlight on the Martian surface, InSight mission team said in a statement.
“Aaah…soaking up the Sun with my solar panels. After a long flight, and thrilling #MarsLanding, it feels great to get a good stretch and recharge my batteries,” the InSight Twitter handle posted.
NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter relayed the signals of the landing, which were received on Earth at about 5:30 pm PST (7 am IST, Tuesday).
Solar array deployment ensures the spacecraft can recharge its batteries each day. Odyssey also relayed a pair of images showing InSight’s landing site.
The lander touched down near Mars’ equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia, with a signal affirming a completed landing sequence at approximately 3 pm EST (1:30 am IST, Tuesday). The probe was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US, on May 5.
“InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.