Mars touchdown: NASA spacecraft survives supersonic plunge

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InSight project manager Tom Hoffman points at an image sent from the InSight lander after the space craft landed on Mars in the mission support area of the space flight operation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/(Al Seib /Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

Minutes after touching down on Mars, NASA’s InSight spacecraft sent back a “nice and dirty” snapshot of its new digs.
    
But scientists were happy with the image because it revealed what they had hoped for – a mostly smooth and sandy terrain around the spacecraft for its experiments.
    
A better image came hours later and more are expected in the days ahead, after the dust covers come off the cameras.
    
InSight arrived at Mars on Monday after a perilous, supersonic plunge that took just six minutes.
    
NASA confirmed late Monday that the spacecraft’s vital solar arrays were open and working. The lander will dig down to measure the planet’s internal heat and a seismometer will listen for quakes.
    
But it will take months to set up and fine-tune the instruments.
 

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