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Why NASA's InSight landing is a triumph of human achievement


NASA engineers Kris Bruvold (left) and Sandy Krasner celebrated after the InSight lander safely dropped down to Mars.

Al Seib / AFP / Getty Pictures

Just 50 years ago, landing on the other planet was a floral dream. These days, it feels like we could drink a glass of tea there.

Half a century after the astronauts landed on the moon, NASA scientists showed how much they came when they came landed the InSight aircraft on Mars this week. And unlike landing in the moon, they ended the heaviest part of the mission – fast downhill through the atmosphere, setting up the parachute and the foot and touching the surface – with hands on control.

In this episode of Watch This Space this week we investigated what went into getting InSight on Mars. We are also surprised by the "seven minutes of horror" – the time between the first hitting the planet's atmosphere to the safe landing moment – and how NASA did it without any real entry into the Earth.

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From complex calculations to precise orders that had to be pre-programmed in the aircraft, InSight was a triumph of human achievement and a sign just as we progressed in space travel. And we are just the beginning of the work.

But behind all machines and math, the culmination of landing was the human side. There is nothing better than looking at working life for a few seconds, and watching the world's safest people cry out in anticipation or celebrate with the perfect hand.

For more information on InSight's mission, see Section 8 Watch This Space, which reviews science behind the mission and what NASA hopes to discover by drilling on the red planet. And remember, you can watch the entire Watch This Space on YouTube.

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