“Telemetry shows parachute deployment. Radar powered on.”
“Altitude convergence, the radar has locked on the ground.”
“Lander separation commanded, altitude 600 meters.”
“…37 meters. 30 meters. 20 meters. 17 meters. Standing by for touchdown.”
After around 7 months and 301 million miles, NASA’s InSight probe had successfully landed on Mars on November 26, 2018.
With joint efforts between Lockheed Martin, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and European agencies, the Mars InSight mission marks an important milestone that will study and help us understand about Mars and its history. Measuring seismic activity and heat, InSight will gather accurate 3D models of the interior of Mars, revealing the makeup and geological evolution of the planet. After almost a decade of planning and developing with delays, InSight is now sitting on Mars, beaming back images and data, and will continue to do so for its planned 2-year mission. In anticipation and to celebrate the momentous event, viewing parties were being held around the world, captivating the eyes and ears of millions.
Thanks to the Night Skies Network, AAA members Cecilia Almeida and I gathered in the heart of Times Square in front of the NASDAQ screen with many others that included NASA officials, Solar System Ambassadors, science educators, NSN partners (Night Skies Network), press, and curious New Yorkers. As we watched and listened to the live-stream from the NASDAQ screen and our phones, the excitement and enthusiasm was palpable. Even under a sea of umbrellas shielding us from the pouring rain, the level of anticipation had not waned. As mission control counted down the descent of InSight, an uproar of cheers and applause erupted when touchdown was confirmed both audibly and visually.
Following the afterglow of the landing, many group photos were taken of the viewers to commemorate the day. Not to lose out on the mood, a coordinator from NASDAQ started ushering us in to the NASDAQ studios across the street. NASDAQ had partnered with NASA on the day of the landing to ring the closing bell on live TV, along with partners that included NSN, museums, and NASA ambassadors. Out of the cold and wet weather, getting warmed up and resting their legs, a community of scientists, educators, enthusiasts, and one astronaut blossomed. Connections were made, stories exchanged, and more photos were taken. Riding on the laurels of the excitement from outside, NASDAQ wasted no time until they instructed us to gather in the live studio. Photos were encouraged to be taken and that was not lost on anyone in the group.
The entire experience was not far off from that of being in a theater, thrill ride, and game show. Before the live airing, everyone took turns to take photos on the NASDAQ podium and rehearsed what to do once the cameras turned on. Melanie Saunders, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator, and Mike Massimino, former NASA astronaut, were to go up first, followed by the rest of the group. Cameras on, screens streaming, eyes on the group, the studio music intensified as we approached the countdown to ringing the closing bell. Cheering and applause increased with volume and fervor and continued to increase once the countdown started. 3 seconds to go and “BAM”, confetti shot up in the air as Melanie and Mike hit the button to ring the closing bell, marking the day an event with memories that all of us will remember and tell to friends and family.
Personal thanks goes out to Maureen, Vivian, NSN, NASA, NASDAQ, the friends made on that day, and everyone involved in making this happen! Thanks to Irene Pease and Stan Honda for coordinating within AAA!
Last note, if you registered your name with NASA’s InSight mission a few years ago, your name is now on a microchip that InSight stores on Mars!