CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft designed to drill down into Mars’ interior landed on the planet Monday after a perilous, supersonic plunge through its red skies, setting off jubilation among scientists who had waited in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive across 100 million miles of space.
Flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their chairs, screaming, dancing and hugging, upon learning that InSight had safely arrived on Mars, the graveyard for a multitude of previous missions.
“Touchdown confirmed!” a flight controller called out just before 3 p.m. EST, instantly dispelling the anxiety that gripped the control room as the spacecraft made its six-minute descent.
Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that had been trailing InSight throughout the six-month, 300-million-mile (482-million-kilometer) journey.
The two experimental satellites not only transmitted the good news in almost real time, they also sent back InSight’s first snapshot of Mars just 4½ minutes after landing.
The picture was speckled with debris because the dust cover was still on the lander’s camera, but the terrain at first glance looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible — pretty much what scientists had hoped for. Better photos are expected in the days ahead.
It was NASA’s — indeed, humanity’s — eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. NASA’s Curiosity rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.
“Flawless,” declared JPL’s chief engineer, Rob Manning. “This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind’s eye,” he added. “Sometimes things work out in your favor.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first Mars landing as the space agency’s boss, said: “What an amazing day for our country.”
Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russia and other spacefaring countries have been lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight.
NASA went with its old, straightforward approach this time, using a parachute and braking engines to get InSight’s speed from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) when it pierced the Martian atmosphere, about 77 miles (114 kilometers) up, to 5 mph (8kph) at touchdown. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.
The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for. Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bull’s-eye, but NASA did not have yet have the final calculations.
He said that it was hard to tell from the first photo whether there were any slopes nearby, but that it appeared he got the flat, smooth “parking lot” he was hoping for.
Museums, planetariums and libraries across the U.S. held viewing parties to watch the events unfold at JPL. NASA TV coverage was also shown on the giant screen in New York’s Times Square, where crowds huddled under umbrellas in the rain.
The $1 billion international mission features a German-led mechanical mole that will burrow down 16 feet (5 meters) to measure the planet’s internal heat. Nothing has ever dug deeper into Mars than several inches. The lander also has a French-made seismometer for measuring quakes, if they exist on our smaller, geologically calmer neighbor.
Another experiment will calculate Mars’ wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet’s core.
The 800-pound (360-kilogram) InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year. Its first job was to get a fast picture out. The next task was the unfolding of its solar panels. NASA wanted to wait 16 minutes for the dust to settle before attempting that; it was awaiting word Monday night on how that went.
Lead scientist Bruce Banerdt warned it will be a slow-motion mission. The instruments will have to be set up and fine-tuned. He said he doesn’t expect to start getting a stream of solid data until late next spring, and it may take the entire mission to really get the goods.
“It really depends on how benevolent Mars is feeling, how many marsquakes it throws at us,” Banerdt said Sunday. “The more marsquakes, the better. We just love that shaking, and so the more shaking it does, the better we can see the inside.”
Mars’ well-preserved interior provides a snapshot of what Earth may have looked like following its formation 4.5 billion years ago, according to Banerdt. While Earth is active seismically, Mars “decided to rest on its laurels” after it formed, he said.
By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life.
Still, there are no life detectors aboard InSight. That will be part of NASA’s next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life.
The question of whether life ever existed in Mars’ wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.
This story has been corrected to show that confirmation came before 3 p.m., not after.
Sanctuary policies fail 14-year-old Ariana Funes-Diaz again as her suspected MS-13 murderers released a second time
The story of Ariana Funes-Diaz’s death is saddening because it was completely preventable. Our initial report failed to determine her alleged murderers had already been detained and released a year before she was killed.
MS-13 gang members Josue Rafael Fuentes-Ponce and Joel Ernesto Escobar were in the custody of Prince George County in Maryland with ICE detainer orders on them, but the sanctuary rules in the jurisdiction allowed their release. They allegedly claimed another victim less than a year later, had another detainer put on them following their arrest, and have again been released so they could avoid deportation.
Let that sink in. Murder suspects have been released by law enforcement because of sanctuary rules in place. There is absolutely no way for Democrats to spin this, but in their minds they’re doing the right thing because the rights of gang member illegal immigrants are higher than the rights of American citizens.
ICE has rightly condemned the rules that allowed this and the law enforcement agencies that are failing to protect Americans.
Following the recent arrest of two unlawfully present teens suspected in the violent murder of a young girl in Maryland, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers in Baltimore are again seeking to take custody of the illegal aliens through the ICE detainer process following the Prince George’s County Detention Center’s (PGCDC) failure to cooperate.
Josue Rafael Fuentes-Ponce and Joel Ernesto Escobar, both Salvadoran nationals, were previously arrested on May 11, 2018 when they were arrested by Prince George’s County Police Department (PGCPD) for attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, participation in gang activity, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted robbery, and other related charges. ICE officers lodged a detainer with PGCDC, however both were released on an unknown date and time without notification to ICE.
Sanctuary rules give the freedom of criminal illegal aliens higher priority than the safety of American citizens. Ariana Funes-Diaz would be alive today if her MS-13 gang member murderers weren’t protected by Democrats. It’s infuriating.
Shannon Grove on high speed rail: ‘The more we look at this project, the more uncertainties come to light’
SACRAMENTO – Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) issued the following statement after the Assembly Transportation Committee held an extensive hearing on the California High-Speed Rail project today.
“The more we look at this project, the more uncertainties come to light. Whether it is the loss of federal funds, the looming deadlines, or the failure to comply with the requirements of Proposition 1A, these hearings have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is incapable of building anything that resembles what they promised the voters.
“Sacramento Democrats can no longer pretend they don’t know this project is off the rails. It is a shameful waste of taxpayers’ dollars and we must stop throwing our hard-earned money down the drain. It is time to kill the big rail fail,” said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove.
Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove represents California’s 16th Senate District which encompasses large portions of Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino counties and including the cities of Bakersfield, Barstow, California City, Exeter, Frazier Mountain, Joshua Tree, Mojave, Needles, Ridgecrest, Rosamond, Taft, Tehachapi, Twentynine Palms, Tulare, Visalia, Yucca Valley and portions of the Kern River Valley. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
For press inquiries or questions, please contact Jacqui Nguyen, press secretary for the Senate Republican Caucus, at 858.999.7706.
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California Senate approves bill to provide business licensing fee relief for disaster victims
SACRAMENTO – The state senate has unanimously passed SB 601, by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), to waive or reduce government licensing fees for businesses recovering after a disaster.
After events like wildfires, floods, and earthquakes, victims face many challenges including increasing expenses. For small businesses, recovery can also include having to replace paperwork such as state licenses needed to operate in California.
“State licensing fees can often be a hurdle as entrepreneurs begin their careers,” said Morrell. “For businesses that have already played by the rules and contributed to our economy, SB 601 helps them get back on their feet after a disaster. While we need licensing reforms and relief across the board, I am grateful to my senate colleagues for their support of this good government measure.”
In recent years, California has seen several of the most damaging and costly natural disasters in its history. The 2017 Tubbs Fire, Southern California mudslides, and 2018 Camp Fire combined have claimed over 100 lives, destroyed more than 25,000 structures, and impacted an estimated 381,784 businesses.
Morrell has led past efforts on licensing reform in California, including the authoring of SB 999 (2018) to repeal certain licensing requirements in the fields of barbering and cosmetology as well as the authoring of SB 1155 (2017) to waive initial licensing fees for veterans entering the civilian workforce.
The bill unanimously passed the senate and will next be considered in the State Assembly.
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