Last night, Monday Nov 26 2018, NASA’s insight lander mission successfully landed on the red planet Mars near Mars’ equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia, with a signal affirming a completed landing sequence at approximately noon PST (3 p.m. EST).
Thanks to two accompanying duplicate briefcase sized Cubesats, MarCO A and MarCo B, testing the viability of using low-cost cubesats as communication relays, telemetry, images and news of the successful descent were sent to Earth in the closest to real-time as currently possible (which in reality still involves a delay of about seven minutes).
And thus the first image came in almost immediately followed by the cheers, patting on the back and sighs of reliefs of the engineers at mission control :
Just as a medical doctor, this stationary lander will accurately take the pulse of the planet and insert a thermometer under its blanket, in order to ascertain how healthily it beats and how well heat is dissipating through its body and skin.
To do this it found itself a straight flat spot where boulders could not interfere with the three immobile landing legs nor the instruments to be craned down onto its surface.
These basic geologic measurements are to be executed for the first time in the history of the exploration of Mars. Surprisingly, ever since the dawn of the space age, scientists were only able to make educated guesses at whether or not the planet is still geologically active today. Therefore we could even begin judge whether the highest volcanoes in the solar system, including the Olympus Mons, were active thousands or hundred of thousands of years ago; or why the internal dynamo of the planet is only creating a very measly magnetic field.
Not only did the mission require the development of an impressive and novel lightweight burrowing tool that can dig a couple of meters down into the soil, to measure temperature at depth, successive problems with the development of an airtight enclosure for the seismograph forced the lander mission to be delayed by a couple of years.
The mission is planned to last 2 years and lift the veil on the geological processes hidden and possibly still going on under the surface of the planet.
For more information, updates and the science involved, go to :
For more information on the MARCO Cubesats go to: