Minnesota NASA expert reflects on what Insight landing means for mankind

NASA’s Insight lander has successfully touched down on mars, ending the 300-million mile journey that lasted six months long, all while the world looked on. 

The "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport" lander touched the ground Monday as the team anxiously watched. 

And as the team celebrated at NASA's jet propulsion lab in Pasadena, California, "Insight" was already sending back tweets and images. 

Back at the University of Minnesota, Dr. James Flaten, associate director of NASA’s Minnesota Space Grant Consortium, explained why this day means so much to mankind.

“I'm very excited about this new development,” Dr. Flaten said. “It's something that NASA has been interested in doing ever since the Viking landers in the 1970s, and this is our first opportunity since then, in fact, to place a seismometer on mars that actually is going to work this time.” 

Insight's first picture is only a glimpse at what's to come. The mission will last two earth years, or one martian year, studying the planet's deep interior. 

It will use a robotic arm to burrow 16 feet below, measuring the planet's heat and listening for quakes - information - that will eventually help send astronauts to the red planet. 

"We plan to have humans on mars in the late 2030s, early 2040s. We're going to be building habitats and so when we build the habitat, we don't want mars quakes knocking it down. It will be a few months, actually, before we get the best science data from the instrument, but we're really glad that it’s on the surface,” Dr. Flaten said. 

This is NASA's eighth successful landing on mars, and they describe Insight's mission as more like a marathon than a sprint. Now that it's landed, it has to warm up and roll out its solar panels to get the power it needs to send back all that important information.