A NASA spacecraft created to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet on Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile (482 million-kilometer) journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.
The two satellites not only transmitted the good news nearly in real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4.5 minutes after landing.
The photo revealed a mostly smooth and sandy terrain around the spacecraft with only one sizable rock visible. Better photos are expected in the days ahead, after the dust covers come off.
This marks the eighth ideal landing on Mars in NASA history, adding to the space agency's remarkable achievement of setting spacecraft on the planet.
A burst of applause and cheers exploded at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Monday (26th November) as NASA's latest Mars lander, called InSight, touched down safely on the Red Planet and managed to send a picture back to Earth.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first Mars landing as the space agency's boss, said: "What an awesome day for our country". Insight streaked into the thin Martian atmosphere at 19794.931 km per hour and plunged 123.919 miles in order to reach the ground. The speed at which the images were sent back was substantially faster than years gone by thanks to InSight's two companions in orbit: Mars Cube One (MarCO) A and B.
Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bull's-eye, but NASA did not have yet have the final calculations.
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InSight arrived on Mars's Elysium Planitia area north of its equator, described as an ideal spot for its flat, rockless surface. Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square.
And so begins the two-year mission for the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander that will go where no lander has gone before, deep below the planet's surface.
"Ultimately, the day is coming when we land humans on Mars", Bridenstine said, adding that the goal is to do so by the mid 2030s.
By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life.
InSight has no life-detecting capability, however. NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life.
After InSight landed, the two experimental satellites zoomed past Mars, their main job done.
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