After a 300 million-mile ride that started in May 2018, NASA’s InSight lander made its final descent to settle on the plains of Mars’ Elysium Planitia at 12 p.m. Pacific Time, Nov. 26, 2018. From this new home, the NASA probe will drill into Mars’ interior for 728 days to collect data and study seismic activity to uncover the mysteries of previous Martian life forms and advance the prospect that humans may one day inhabit the giant red planet.
Team Peraton can now exhale. After months of intense preparation and on close watch for five consecutive days prior to the Mars landing, the 75-person team was on point for the precious seven minutes it took for InSight to penetrate the unpredictable Martian atmosphere. Slowing from a speed of approximately 12,000 miles per hour, the probe landed on Mars’ rocky surface without the help of mission control.
With no margin for error, the Peraton team in California managing NASA’s Deep Space Network [the only network able to deliver communications for missions as distant as Mars and beyond] zeroed-in on communication signals coming from antennas in Madrid to provide monitoring throughout InSight’s entire landing sequence. While InSight landed, a complex communications relay delivered additional data via MarCO A and MarCO B, the first-ever interplanetary CubeSats to enter deep space via tiny payloads destined to deliver efficient communications from space to mission control at a fraction of the cost of current satellites.
Exhausted but exhilarated, Peraton’s program manager Sonny Giroux said, “This mission is particularly exciting. Not only do we have the privilege of working with JPL, the only organization with the distinction of successfully landing on Mars, we enable the technology that propels dynamic scientific advancements.”
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