News World News

Thursday 19 September 2019

Life on Mars? Nasa probe lands with mission to find out

A model of the spaceship Insight. Photo: REUTERS
A model of the spaceship Insight. Photo: REUTERS

Samantha Herbert

A spacecraft carrying millions of euro worth of research equipment has successfully landed on Mars, launching a two-year mission to detect potential signs of life.

Nasa's InSight probe came to a gentle landing on the Red Planet's broad, dusty plain of Elysium Planitia at 7.55pm last night, the first spacecraft to do so for six years.

The seven-minute, rapid deceleration through the thin Martian atmosphere involved the use of small rockets, parachutes, heat shields and shock-absorbing legs.

Scores of Nasa engineers, project managers and investigators gathered at the California Institute of Technology to watch nervously as the descent took place. There were occasional bursts of cautious applause as it passed critical points of peak heating and parachute inflation.

As the probe deployed its 12-metre supersonic parachute, the team clapped with relief.

As the dust settled two or three minutes later, Insight relayed the first image taken from one of its two cameras.

Commentators described the landing as "perfect" and "flawless".

It was due to unfurl its solar panels within hours of the landing.

Over the next three months, Insight will deploy instruments designed to probe beneath the Martian surface before it begins to collect information about the planet's deep structure.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News