Watch NASA Staff Lose their Sh%$ Completely (about 2:55)
NASA’s InSight probe nailed the landing on Mars:
NASA has not botched a Mars landing since December 1999, when the Polar Lander fell silent following its powered descent to Planum Australe. Then came the successes of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, the Phoenix lander and, in 2012, the bellwether Curiosity rover, which discovered organic materials and habitable environments on Mars.
Still, NASA downplayed the chances of InSight surviving atmospheric entry, descent and landing (EDL) on the wide, flat plains of Mars’ Elysium Planitia, located 4.5 deg. N. Lat. and 135.9 deg. E. Long., about 340 mi. (550 km) away from where Curiosity is exploring Gale Crater.
With an 8.1-min. time delay for radio signals from Earth to reach Mars 91 million mi. away, flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) here had little to do but watch and wait as InSight shed its cruise stage and dived into the Martian atmosphere at 11:47 a.m. PST (2:47 p.m. EST) on Nov. 26, with the probe still traveling at more than 12,000 mph.
A tense 6.5 min. followed as InSight, built by Lockheed Martin, traveled the final 77 mi. to the surface of Mars. Its ablative heat shield, composed primarily of crushed cork, reached temperatures as high as 2,700F—hot enough to melt steel—as friction from Mars’ atmosphere bled the spacecraft of kinetic energy, gradually trimming its speed to 295 mph.
At 11:51 a.m. PST, a mortar fired to release InSight’s 39-ft.-dia. supersonic parachute, which inflated with a force of 12,500 lb./ft.2, leaving the probe free to shed its heat shield, deploy three shock-absorbing landing legs and activate a ground-facing radar system to relay altitude and descent rates to the onboard flight computer.
Finally, a dozen Aerojet Rocketdyne MR-107N retrorockets, each capable of providing 68 lb. of force, pulsed to steer InSight clear of its discarded backshell and parachute and slow its speed to 5.5 mph for a soft landing on Mars at 11:54 a.m. PST. “This never gets old,” JPL chief engineer Rob Manning said during NASA’s landing webcast.
Unfortunately, no Mohawk guy, but a good time was had by all.