back to article NASA's Mars probe InSight really has Mars in sight: It beams back first pic after touchdown

NASA’s InSight lander today successfully fell through the atmosphere of Mars to touchdown in seemingly one piece on the planet's surface. The $810m probe had to execute dozens of steps perfectly in a short period of time as it descended upon the Martian landscape. Tom Hoffman, InSight’s project manager, described the journey …

  1. Yes Me Silver badge
    Happy

    Well done

    This is the best news of the year. (Not that there's been much competition.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well done

      I think they should have cleaned that camera lens before they launched it though. Bit too late now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well done

        It's just flies.

        A squeegee guy will be along soon, demanding payment for services rendered.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Well done

        The lens cap is still on.

        - No joke, it really is. They'll pop over and take it off soon.

        (I assume there's really an actuator to pop it off)

      3. I Am Spartacus
        Thumb Up

        Re: Well done

        They keep a lens cap on to protect the under-deck camera from the dust that blown up during landing. They have 12 descent rockets, firing in pulse mode, to bring the lander down to walking speed. That kicks up quite a bit of dust. So they have a lens protector that will be jettisoned today, all being well.

        A better photo is from the camera on the robotic arm on top of the deck.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Well done

          Thanks for the link, that is a rather better image

        2. cray74

          Re: Well done

          They keep a lens cap on to protect the under-deck camera from the dust that blown up during landing.

          The rockets are no joke. Despite all the efforts to protect Curiosity, including using the "sky crane" design, Curiosity's wind sensors were damaged by flying debris during landing.

  2. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    InSight can drill 16ft! I do hope they drill into a mercury tooth filling, thus confirming humanity's Martian origins:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/spacecraft/instruments/hp3/

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      InSight can drill 16ft! I do hope they drill into a mercury tooth filling ...

      Proving Professor Challenger right: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100031h.html

    2. Steve Knox Silver badge
      Joke

      A Mercury Tooth Filling?

      Wouldn't that put InSight about 170,030,000 km off course?

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: A Mercury Tooth Filling?

        If they do hit a mercury filling it will be evidence that they have identified the root canal, proving Giovanni Schiaparelli was right all along.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      InSight can drill 16ft! I do hope they drill into a mercury tooth filling........

      More likely to be a Mars Bar.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        InSight can drill 16ft!

        I've heard those sort of boasts before. I'm hoping this little chap doesn't suffer from performance anxiety.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: InSight can drill 16ft! I do hope they drill into a mercury tooth filling........

        "More likely to be a Mars Bar"

        Then it REALLY is gonna need some tooth fillings

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Coat

    Ah... here comes Officer Obie...

    Seems the lander is about to be charged with littering and make a public nuisance.*

    *Well, Thanksgiving and a dinner that couldn't be beat was few days ago. I'll get my coat.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Update XKCD

    So now that we are capable of doing seismology on Mars, GLR needs to update a recent comic:

    https://xkcd.com/2058/

    *Martian* mantle geology is now the most frustrating field (similar wall of rock, but nobody lives right next to it, and nobody's visited it in person)

  5. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    “If we’re going to send humans there, it’ll be useful to see how often it gets impacted.”

    "If"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laconic_phrase

    Overall a nice demo of how political wardrum bangers can't completely stop international scientific collaboration: the main instrument on the probe, the state-of-the art SEIS seismometer, is French. Yay for international science, and we can only hope that angry tweets won't obliterate that in the future.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: “If we’re going to send humans there, it’ll be useful to see how often it gets impacted.”

      Also HP3 is German and RISE is part Spanish with lots of the science being done in London and Zurich. So this is a very multinational project.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "Jim Bridenstine said the device could detect how often Mars gets bombarded by asteroids."

    Sadly, quite often.

    IIRC in one year a little under 400 new craters appeared that were visible from orbit (which is how they were detected).

    Mar's surface atmospheric pressure is 1/160 that of Earth means you don't see many shooting stars.

    You'll feel them when they hit the ground.

    At not far below orbital speed.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: "Jim Bridenstine said the device could detect how often Mars gets bombarded by asteroids."

      Where is this planet Mar?

      " you don't see many shooting stars."

      Au contraire.

      "Scientists think four times as many comets dust Mars with their tails compared to our home planet, as a high proportion of comets hang out near Jupiter, the red planet's next-closest neighbor. So there could be many more meteor showers visible from Mars than from Earth."

      https://www.space.com/5199-shooting-star-shower-spotted-mars.html

      https://www.space.com/1155-shooting-star-mars.html

      It's true that there aren't as many people there to see them though...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Jim Bridenstine said the device could detect how often Mars gets bombarded by asteroids."

        Define "visible". ;)

  7. Sleep deprived
    Happy

    Why not drop a selfie-camera?

    Instead of a ground-facing first pic, Insight should have used its robotic arm to drop a camera and take a selfie...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They do.

      See other rovers.

  8. The Count
    Trollface

    Planting the flag

    InSight's first task will be to plant the US flag and claim Mars as US territory.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Planting the flag

      Fortunately it was launched before Trump learned that Mars existed. Which was probably yesterday.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Planting the flag

      Planting the flag and claiming it for a given country has to be done by a human as I recall. Otherwise, just fire off rockets with a flag on board and claim wherever it hits/lands/crashes.

  9. swm
    Pint

    JPL is absolutely amazing. Both the software and hardware have to work to make a successful landing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree, but I'm getting tired of the PR stunts like the "six minutes of terror" - I'm sure that when Vikings landed forty years ago, they didn't say such words despite it was even far more difficult back then - but hyperboles looks to be the new normal... still I would prefer scientists giving the good example, and measure their words. But maybe saying silliness is the only way to be picked up by the press today....

      1. Caver_Dave

        OS

        As with nearly everything space oriented, the OS is VxWorks. So, no having to reboot it any time soon!

      2. ibmalone Silver badge

        "Apollo Control, Houston. Now we are in our period of the longest wait. Thus far in the mission we are 19 minutes, 50 seconds from acquisition at this time. During Mission Control simulations, this was a good time for coffee breaks for the flight controllers, but that is not true today. Continuing to monitor, this is Apollo Control, Houston."

        https://history.nasa.gov/afj/ap08fj/12day3_lunar_encounter.html

      3. lglethal Silver badge

        Think of it this way AC, in the build up to landing you can do a lot of things - course corrections, checking hardware, testing software, run simulations, perform tests on earth, etc. But once the lander hits that atmosphere there is literally NOTHING you can do for it. But wait that 7 minutes and hope all of that testing and simulation was right. If that's not Terrifying for the scientists involved I don't know what is. And it's not just the scientists and engineers involved in the landing, all of the instrument scientists and engineers, are waiting to see if their instruments will survive so that they can do the science they want.

        Or why don't I put it this way, insight was first conceived about 10 years ago, it's been under design, construction and testing for 5 years. Its cost 800 million dollars, and there are people who have spent 5-10 years working on this and nothing else and whether or not you've just wasted 10 years of your life comes down to a spacecraft 50 million kms away performing flawlessly a series of actions involving heat shields, parachutes and retro rockets, all autonomously where the slightest fuck up week see all of that hard work down the tube and there is nothing you can do about it. You don't consider that Terrifying? Trust me, when it's your instrument - it fucking well is!!!

      4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Why not 6 minutes of terror?

        If you'd just sunk 10-15 years of your career into the design, funding and building of a space probe - and were unable to know or control the result of the most complicated and dangerous phase - wouldn't you be worried?

        Even more importantly, if you've got budget for studying the results the thing produces for the next 2-5 years, and the thing crashes and burns you're out of a job.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Worried, yes. Very anxious, true. Terrorized, not (I work for an aerospace company). I didn't see people from failed missions jumping out the windows terrorized... and probably they landed into a new job - unlike the probe.

          "Terror" has a meaning. We are emptying words from their real meaning - it's what hyperboles in the long run do. When "terror" won't be enough, what will they use?

          Again, in Viking times it was even more complex. Far less powerful computers, far less knowledge, more unknowns. And no one AFAIK said he was "terrorized".

          Probably because media were less stupid than they are today, now just looking for something biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig to lure clicks in.

  10. Symon Silver badge
    Go

    MarCo

    These things worked as well. Little flyby CubeSats that relayed back the landing telemetry. Neat.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Cube_One

  11. SkippyBing Silver badge

    “All rocky planets share the same basic structure: an iron core, rocky mantle, and a lighter crust of silica rock,"

    How do they know? They haven't drilled yet, it could be a nougat core and chocolate mantle* for all they know!

    *I jest as I'm assuming they have an idea of the density based on its rotation, orbital eccentricity etc, but it seems a bit of a leap to then say all rocky planets have an iron core etc.

    1. IsJustabloke Silver badge
      Coat

      "How do they know?"

      nougat is fine, I'd only be worried if it turned out to be coffee cream

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: "How do they know?"

        No - you'd Revel in that...

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      You may jest, but it is a bit of a bold statement. The Moon*, for instance, is generally not thought to contain an iron core, due to the mechanism of its formation. UNless you define a "rocky planet" as havingthat structure, you can't really claim that it applies to *all* rocky planets, everywhere.

      *Yes I know the Moon isnt' technically a planet, but if it was in its own orbit aroud the Sun, it would be considered to be one. It's not a lot smaller than Mercury.

      1. aeonturnip
        Paris Hilton

        According to the prevalent hypothesis, the moon didn't form in the same way as the inner planets, which coalesced from the protoplanetary disk when the sun formed. The moon was the result of a glancing impact event on the Earth, and as such is made of the lighter stuff of the crust and mantle and therefore has a very small iron core.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_the_Moon

        Paris, just because we're talking about bumping heavenly bodies.

  12. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    MARS?

    They have landed it in a field of potatoes --that's obvious from the pic

    1. Andy Mac

      Re: MARS?

      Potatoes? Did it squash Mark Watney on landing?

  13. I Am Spartacus
    Facepalm

    JPL more amazing than elReg

    Well done JPL. I watched the 7 minutes of terror yesterday, and had to keep reminding myself that everything we saw 'live' had already happened 8 minutes ago.

    But el Reg? Utter Fail. The headline says that Mars Insight beamed back it's first pictures from Mars, but el Reg uses a stock photo of the ground based duplicate lander.

    Score 1 for the article. Lose several 100 for lazy journalism.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: JPL more amazing than elReg

      Whilst I agree that the IDC photo is more interesting, it wasn't the first picture sent back. The one in the article (not the title pic, the one actually in the article) was the first.

      Maybe the article could be updated now another pic has been released by NASA, but at least they got an article out with details available at the time.

      If you don't like the way ElReg do things, feel free to find another news source.

    2. ravenviz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: JPL more amazing than elReg

      @ I Am Spartacus Where's your article, we'll read that instead?!

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: I Am Spartacus

      Er, at the time of writing:

      1. the only image beamed back was the crappy photograph *embedded* *in* *the* *story* so that's the one we went with. More have since arrived, we can link to them now.

      2. mobile users don't see the article's top 'hero' picture so they wouldn't see the Mars image if it was used as the header picture. instead, we *embedded* *it* *in* *the* *story*.

      3. the image was *embedded* *in* *the* *story*.

      C.

      1. cray74
        Trollface

        Re: I Am Spartacus

        3. the image was *embedded* *in* *the* *story*.

        So, wait...where can I find these images you're talking about?

  14. jmch Silver badge

    Power?

    “We are solar powered, so getting the arrays out and operating is a big deal,”

    If it's only solar power, how much power is actually available on Mars? IIRC it's 1W/sqm on earth, must be much less on Mars. Must have some pretty big solar arrays to get any useful work done!

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Power?

      'Must have some pretty big solar arrays to get any useful work done!'

      Or very efficient tech, so they probably haven't sub-contracted to any phone manufacturers.

    2. druck

      Re: Power?

      @jmch you are about 1000x out on W/sqm on earth!

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Power?

        "@jmch you are about 1000x out on W/sqm on earth!"

        <homer>D'Oh! </homer>

        I knew there was a 1 in there, a small matter of forgetting the 'k'

        :)

        1. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: Power?

          The solar panels are 2 2.2m diameter solar panels producing about 600W at the start of the mission (which will decrease over time due to dust etc. If I remember correctly it's supposed to drop by about 200W by mission end.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Power?

            "The solar panels are 2 2.2m diameter solar panels producing about 600W at the start of the mission "

            OK I've been wrong before :) ... that doesn't seems a bit low, though: That's about 7.6 sqm of panel... so panels are producing about 0.079 kW/sqm, Mars is around 1.5AU from the sun so inverse square law so should be around 2.25 times less than Earth (1kW/sqm), so 0.44kW/sqm.

            So efficiency of solar panels would be barely 18%, while the best available panels are close to 40% efficiency. Is there that much dust in the air on Mars to reduce efficiency so much? Or maybe NASA are estimating 600W initial as teh absolute lowest worst-case, and in reality they could have quite more?

  15. DropBear Silver badge

    Also...

    "At the right moment, InSight stretched out its legs to absorb any shock as it set itself down on the rocky ground."

    But before that happened, and after the parachute opened and the heat shield dropped away, one kilometre above the ground InSight let go of the parachute, fell away, veered out from under it, then slowed to a low constant speed descent right before it hit the ground, turning its pulse engines off as soon as it did, to prevent toppling over. And yes, I would need brown trousers for all that too.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still find it amazing that pictures such as the one from JPL are from a completely different planet, an entire other world, and yet the photos make the surface of Mars look so familiar, so that you can imagine standing there yourself. It could easily be somewhere in the desert in California rather than a scene from a different planet.

    Oh.....I shouldn't have said that last bit, should I?

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Nearly got an upvote…

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ok but

    How do we know that the lander hasn't crash landed onto a Martian civilization? For all we know people could be nanoscopically small and we could have just wiped out untold buildings, roads, power distribution. Would somebody please think of the CHILDREN?!?!

  18. Hairy Spod

    Wind

    I'm reasonably sure the rocket scientists thought of this, but those solar panels look a bit lightweight and flimsy.

    How well do they stand upto the very high wind speed, sand laden storms on Mars? - serious question

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Wind

      Atmospheric pressure is pretty low on Mars so not really an issue - although they will still get a layer of sand from sand storms that are strong enough to blow sand around.

      Luckily (sometimes) the dust devils also blow it off (the sand, not the rover for those of you in doubt fnar,fnar...)

    2. Gordon861

      Re: Wind

      From what I've heard the very high winds shown in movies is just fantasy.

      1. Florida1920 Silver badge

        Re: Wind

        Windbreaker / Breaking Wind

        The difference and similarity of these two terms has always fascinated me. Fair winds and following seas, InSight!

    3. Killing Time

      Re: Wind

      'I'm reasonably sure the rocket scientists thought of this, but those solar panels look a bit lightweight and flimsy.'

      I'm trying to imagine the scenario where the rocket scientists factored in the hypersonic atmospheric entry then deceleration to soft landing and forgot to beef up the solar panel support structure.

      Nahh I've got nothing....

      1. Killing Time

        Re: Wind

        And before any of you enthusiasts calls ' Polar Lander' or 'Schiaparelli', they were believed to be caused by mistakes not omissions... Just saying...

    4. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge
  19. Zebo-the-Fat
    Pint

    Well done!

    Well done to all involved, you have earned a pint!

  20. Spherical Cow

    Did they remember to fit the solar panels with windscreen wipers?

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