NASA touches down on the Red Planet

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The green circles indicate data coming from the InSight lander as it enters the Martian atmosphere to the two MarCO CubeSats A and B flying by. The blue circles are the MarCO CubeSats relaying the data back to Earth.

A little over an Earth Day ago, NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed on Mars. KCRW’s Tod Mesirow was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to witness the historic touchdown of the eighth spacecraft ever to have landed on the red planet.

The team at JPL was able to actually watch InSight’s landing. “It’s like a reality show,” Mesirow said of the excitement.

The ability to watch the landing was all thanks to two CubeSats that followed the spacecraft’s journey. “CubeSats are a new kind of small satellite,” Mesirow explained. They will be collecting data from InSight’s mission and “transmitting that data back to Earth.”

Mesirow sat down with Steve Chiotakis to dig in on the implications of this historic landing.

A model of the MarCO CubeSat with the high-gain, X-band antenna and solar panels deployed. The antenna is a flat panel, engineered with the etched pattern to focus the radio waves the way a parabolic dish antenna does, but that is stowed folded and flat at launch. The MarCO CubeSats weight about 30 pounds each, and are about 12” x 8” x 4” when they were launched May 5, 2018 from Vandenberg AFB in California.
The whole InSight and MarCO teams all high five the team leaders after the successful landing and transmission of data, November 26, 2018, at JPL in Pasadena.
Taken by MarCO-B as it heads away from Mars. This image was taken at 12:10PM on November 26, about 17 minutes after Mars InSight landed safely on the surface. On the right hand side of the image one of the two solar panels is visible.
The first photo from the surface of Mars taken by the InSight lander, relayed to the MarCO satellites as they passed by Mars. The dark specs are dirt on the lens cover, which will be gone when the lens cover is removed. The image was taken shortly after touchdown, which was 11:52:59 AM PST on November 26.