Cheers as Mars InSight spacecraft lands on Mars, Latest World News - The New Paper

Cheers as Mars InSight spacecraft lands on Mars

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PASADENA Cheers erupted at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday as a waist-high unmanned lander, called InSight, touched down on Mars, capping a nearly seven-year journey from design to launch to landing.

The dramatic arrival of the US$993 million (S$1.36b) spacecraft - designed to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet's inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape - marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in Nasa's history.

"Touchdown confirmed," a mission control operator at Nasa said, as dozens of scientists leapt from their seats to embrace each other.

"It was intense and you could feel the emotion," said Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Mr Bridenstine also said President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had called to congratulate the US space agency for its hard work.

"Ultimately, the day is coming when we land humans on Mars," Mr Bridenstine said.

The vehicle appeared to be in good shape, according to the first communications received from the Martian surface.

But dust kicked up during the landing obscured the first picture InSight sent back.

In a final crucial phase, Nasa said InSight signalled to Earth that its 2.2m-wide solar panels had opened and were collecting sunlight.

The spacecraft is Nasa's first to touch down on Mars since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012.

More than half of 43 attempts to reach Mars with rovers, orbiters and probes by space agencies from around the world have failed.

Nasa is the only space agency to have made it, and is invested in these robotic missions to prepare for the first Mars-bound human explorers in the 2030s.

By listening for tremors on Mars, whether from quakes, meteor impacts or volcanic activity, scientists can learn more about its interior.

The goal is to map the inside of Mars in three dimensions. - AFP