Where it all began: surviving the seven minutes of terror
– In order to even make it to Mars’ surface in 2018 to do all its cool science, InSight had to perform a harrowing entry, descent and landing sequence famously known as the ‘seven minutes of terror’ for its technical complexity and because signal delays preclude humans from interfering if something goes wrong. Not only did InSight survive, but it returned one of the coolest first photos ever
(and yes, it made us tear up).
“After all the time I’ve spent working on this mission, it’s hard to narrow down one favorite moment, but I guess it would have to be the moment we confirmed safe touchdown on Mars. It was only then that I knew that all the heart and soul (and time!) I had put into InSight over the years was really going to pay off. No matter what happened after that, we were safely on Mars, and we were going to do what we had been dreaming of and planning for years.”
The first ever detection of a marsquake – In April 2019, after months of hearing only wind and surface noises, InSight became the first spacecraft to measure a marsquake. During its mission, InSight recorded 1,300+ seismic events, some at magnitudes greater than 4. These marsquakes detected by InSight are helping scientists understand how Mars and other rocky planets (like Earth) formed.
“Dec. 25, 2021, Marsquake. What an amazing Christmas present.”
Observing eclipses from Phobos and Deimos (Mars’ moons) – In addition to observing plenty of Martian weather phenomenon, data from InSight’s solar arrays was precise enough to observe the eclipse of both of Mars’ moons! Dips in the lander’s energy corresponded with each moon passing overhead.
“With how sensitive InSight’s instruments are, we could notice a dip in the solar array current and in our temperature sensors on the outside of the spacecraft because of these celestial bodies passing overhead. As a thermal engineer, seeing our environmental temperatures dip from these eclipses was a favorite moment of mine.”