By Dillon Thomas
LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4)- For the first time in six years, humans successfully landed a device on the surface of our nearest neighbor, Mars. InSight, a lander created and developed mostly by Coloradans in Littleton, successfully landed on Mars Monday afternoon.
Staff at Lockheed Martin’s facility were credited with much of the project’s success.
With the goal of sampling the surface and core of Mars, the program was first started seven years ago. The craft was launched from Earth in March, and traveled more than 90 million miles to Mars during a seven month voyage.
“Anytime you want to land on another planet, it is very challenging, and very exciting, at the same time,” said Tim Linn, one of the managers for the InSight mission.
Linn, a Colorado native, was one of the key figures in making sure the lander would successfully arrive to the red planet. The lander slowed from a 12,500 mph speed to only five mph before touching down.
Linn said the stress of the landing was largely due to the lack of quick communication between the lander and humans. Communication between Earth and Mars takes about eight minutes each way.
With the landing taking only seven minutes, InSight’s fate was already determined by the time the signal of its descent arrived in Colorado.
“We really don’t have the ability to joy stick the space craft,” Linn said.
CBS4’s Dillon Thomas was in the room as dozens of InSight’s developers anticipated it’s landing. Some chewed their nails, others held phones to their ears listening to radio coverage. All clapped, some even hugged, when word of a safe landing was given.
“It was an amazing event to watch the successful landing of InSight,” Linn said. “The team was extremely excited, (and) relieved.”
Thanks to the hard work of Coloradans working for Lockheed Martin, the United States once again has a strong research presence on Mars. Some say InSight will set the stage for humans to arrive on Mars, likely by the mid 2040s.
“Colorado has really had part in so many missions, not just to Mars, but to every planet out in our solar system and beyond. We have so much to be proud of in Colorado,” Linn said.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.