NASA scientists successfully touched down a spacecraft on Mars Monday — completing a nail-biting landing they’d dubbed the “seven minutes of terror.”
“Touch down confirmed!” Mission Control announced as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory burst into applause.
Just minutes later, the room erupted again as the InSight lander beamed its first image of the red planet 100 million miles back to Earth.
After its six month journey to Mars, the 800-pound lander had to go from 12,300 mph to zero in six minutes after it penetrated the Martian atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute, fire its descent engines — and then land on three legs.
It was intense and you could feel the emotion,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine after the landing.
“It was very, very quiet when it was time to be quiet and of course very celebratory as every new piece of information was received.”
Vice President Mike Pence called with his congratulations right away, Bridenstine added.
If all continues to go to plan, the $1-billion international mission will see the InSight spend the next two years exploring Mars’ interior.
This is NASA’s eighth successful Mars landing — and it first in six years since the Curiosity rover in 2012.