BOSTON (CBS) — They did it. NASA landed on Mars. And the InSight probe has already sent back a picture from the planet’s surface.
After traveling millions of miles, the lander touched down to cheers in the command center. The scientists in the Jet Propulsion Lab weren’t the only ones cheering Monday. Future rocket scientists at MIT joined in the engineering triumph.
The students in the MIT Rocket Team Lab design, build and fly rockets, but on Monday, they were nervous. “Mars is the graveyard of space probes. Only about half of them going there, work,” says Charlie Garcia.
“To see it actually landing now is scary, but it’ll be really great if it works,” adds Julia Gaubatz.
It was a nail-biter as the students tracked the lander’s progress.
Nearly seven months after liftoff, Nasa’s InSight lander entered Mars atmosphere at about 12,000 miles per hour for what’s been described as seven minutes of terror, a white-knuckle ride for scientists watching from earth. A special parachute deployed to slow the lander’s descent. Then InSight dropped from its heat shield, and 12 reverse thrusters applied the brakes.
“Touchdown confirmed,” was the announcement at mission control.
“It’s kind of infectious coming through that screen. You feel how excited they are. Yeah, it’s very cool,” says Rocket Team member Josef Biberstein.
“There’s so much excitement, I’m really glad we have a new rover on Mars,” adds Katya Bezugla.
“Just thinking that this is one step closer to humanity being able to live on Mars, it’s really exciting,” says Dayna Erdmann.
Solar panels will be deployed to provide power, and eventually, a robotic arm will place instruments on, and under, the surface of Mars, and transmit critical, new data to Earth.