A NASA spacecraft created to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile (482 million-km) journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.
"Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller called out just before 3 p.m. EST, setting off jubilation among scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who had waited in white-knuckle suspense for word to reach across 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) of space.
NASA's science chief, Thomas Zurbuchen said previously: "As humanity, as explorers - we're batting at less than 50 percent".
This mission's other primary science experiment is the Heat Probe - a "mole" that will dig its way deep under the surface, to give us a look at what the temperature profile inside the planet is like.
The vehicle appeared to be in good shape, according to the first communications received from the Martian surface. The dispatch that included the first clear photo of Mars from the mission were relayed to Earth by the Mars Odyssey orbiter.
Practically speaking, InSight is Mars' first geophysicist.
"It does look like the lander is a bit tilted, which is not ideal, but the workspace looks flat as a pancake and almost rock-free".
Philippe Lognonne, the principal investigator on the SEIS, said he was "relieved and very happy" that the probe had landed intact and online. With this safe landing, I'm here. The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander's robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one half the radius of a hydrogen atom.
A post-launch press conference is planned for 2200 GMT.
Launched on May 5, InSight marks NASA's first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012. "There are many future smallsats and cubesats that are in work and funded by NASA at this point, and we look forward to more concepts into the future".
It was NASA's eighth successful Mars landing since the 1976 Vikings.
NASA is calling it "seven minutes of terror". The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it. So, once the InSight team is ready, they will set the Heat Probe down on the ground, likely after the seismic instrument is in position.
InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.
InSight's descent and landing, consisting of about 1,000 individual steps that had to be flawlessly executed to achieve success, capped a six-month journey of 301 million miles (548 million km) from Earth. The researchers will run simulations on their model at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory before sending instructions to InSight.