Just before noon on Monday, every person in the Theodore von Kármán Auditorium at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California sat on the cusps of their seats. They stared straight ahead at a video screen showing a live view from inside JPL’s mission control center. On-screen, rows of engineers also sat entranced, transfixed by their computer consoles as a flight controller announced altitude measurements over an intercom.
And then, a few moments later, the final call: “Touchdown confirmed.”
Straightaway, the engineers and those in the auditorium erupted into cheers and applause. In jubilation, many threw their hands in the air or threw their arms around their colleagues. Some had come prepared with elaborate celebratory handshake routines. It was the outcome that everyone had been hoping for: NASA’s latest spacecraft had successfully touched down on the surface of Mars, and it had seemingly made it down in one piece.
But it’s been a very long road to get to this point. InSight has been in development for the last decade at Lockheed Martin and JPL, and it suffered an additional two-year delay after engineers found a defect in one of its main instruments. The problem was ultimately fixed, culminating with the lander’s launch this May. The vehicle then traveled through space for the last six and half months, so that it could make the plunge into Mars’ atmosphere on Monday.
Members of the press, planetary scientists, engineers, social media influencers, and even a few celebrities started streaming into JPL early on Monday morning to “watch” the landing live, though we all knew we wouldn’t actuallysee事件 - 至少不会在视觉上。有没有为未来登陆火星的任何相机记录飞船。而且它不会真的是活的，无论是。眼下，光一个信号时间超过八分钟从火星抵达地球。所以，在现实中，我们已经都来听that the landing had succeeded from the mission team eight minutes after the touchdown actually occurred.
But despite not having any real-time visuals of the landing, JPL did have something worth the trip: lots and lots of scientists milling about the sunny government campus. Those on the InSight team could be easily spotted, thanks to their matching maroon button-down shirts sporting the InSight mission logo. And they all vibrated with a mixture of jubilance and anxiety. Some of the scientists, including the lander’s principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt, have been working on some form of this mission for decades now, waiting for this day. But a Mars landing is always a scary prospect, with the fear of a crash hanging heavy in the air.
这是因为火星上着陆什么是最糟糕的。相比于地球或月球着陆飞船，火星被认为是“最严重的两个世界。”不像月球，火星有航天器造成加热到激烈的温度的方式向地面，这使得屏蔽要求的气氛。虽然这种气氛确实帮助减缓车辆，空气中还是相当薄 - 约1％的地球大气层密度 - 因此它不会减慢飞船足够. A parachute alone won’t cut it, and thrusters are usually needed as well to lower a vehicle down gently. The heavier a spacecraft becomes, the harder it is to land on Mars.
In the minutes leading up to the landing, we heard a hopeful phrase from mission control: “MarCO Bravo has locked on to carrier. MarCO Alpha has also locked on the carrier.” Mission control exploded into applause. I exchanged a few smiles with other space reporters in the room. “That’s a good sign!” I said, surprised. The MarCO satellites were receiving signals from InSight, and that meant we’d know how every step of the landing process would go, which is a luxury past Mars missions didn’t have.
从这一点上来说，这是一条坦途 - 为洞察力和我们在礼堂。由于马可孛卫星，我们有充分的大事的确认。当部署InSight的降落伞，房间鼓掌。当锁定到地面雷达，大家都欢呼起来。然后，当它是远离表面仅有数米，所有人都屏住了呼吸，直到我们得到了最后的通话。
Hours later, the same von Kármán Auditorium was packed with InSight team members, press, and fans. The top scientists and InSight project manager Tom Hoffman walked in, hands raised in triumph, while the audience cheered and clapped. Hoffman thanked all of the scientists and engineers in the room who worked countless hours to make a six-and-a-half-minute landing possible. “You were working on Thanksgiving, but not just Thanksgiving,” he said. “You’ve missed a lot of different holidays and important events to make this a success. And today, it was all worth it.”