A NASA spacecraft designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere. 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. "Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller announced. The three-legged InSight spacecraft reached the surface after being slowed by a parachute and braking engines, the space agency said. Updates were coming in via radio signals that take more than eight minutes to cross the nearly 100 million miles between Mars and Earth. What you need to know, per the AP:
- The plan called for the spacecraft to go from 12,300mph to zero in six minutes flat as it pierced the Martian atmosphere and settled on the surface.
- "Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration," said InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt. "It's such a difficult thing, it's such a dangerous thing that there's always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong."