After the celebration and excitement of a successful landing on Mars Monday, NASA's InSight Mission will turn its attention to its real task of collecting seismic data that could explain the red planet's evolution.
The spacecraft's team will work for the next two or three months setting up a seismometer, heatshield, and windshield, said Troy Lee Hudson, a NASA instruments systems engineer at a watch party in CalTech.
"And that's when the mole starts digging," said Hudson.
InSight's probe, nicknamed "the mole," will work at boring a hole in 20-inch increments, pausing for a few days to collect heat samples. The hole will eventually hit 16 feet where it will continue reading temperatures for the rest of the mission.
The spacecraft traveled more than 300,000 miles over six months to get to Mars. The last few moments, the "six minutes of hell" was the tensest, when there were several minutes of silence from a lag between signals in space to Earth.
"It was very, very stressful," Penrod said. "So after we sent up those commands, there's nothing more we can do. We're just looking at the telemetry that's coming back and hoping everything goes well."
Until the final confirmation of a successful landing, everybody in mission control tried to stay calm.
"It was just this release of nervousness and then would build up to the next one," development systems engineer Drew Penrod said. "Then we finally got the confirmation of touchdown and everybody in the room just released all of that nervous energy and was so excited."
As InSight collects geological information about Mars, NASA hopes this will reveal a blueprint of other terrestrial planets, including Earth. The space agency is already working towards their 2020 space mission.
Drew Penrod, a deployment systems engineer at NASA is one of the many enthusiastic engineers to be working on the new project.
"So this is just a part of our quest to understand Mars itself," Penrod said. Mars 2020 will be a rover, like the Curiosity rover. "It's going to specifically look for life on Mars," Penrod said. The ultimate goal of the 2020 mission is to collect enough dirt to bring back to Earth for a study.
This landing represents the eighth time humanity has ever touched down on Mars.
One of the first accomplished tasks on this trip was sending a photo back as an instruments test.
"It was really exciting for me because my job involves looking at that picture and analyzing what the ground looks like," said Penrod.
As work is starting to ramp up for the InSight team, they are looking forward to all of the new discoveries this mission will bring.
"We've got a lot of work to do in the next couple of months. The first shift starts tonight," Penrod said. "It's going to go until about three in the morning, and we're excited really excited to get started with getting some really cool science."
Science-minded groups outside of NASA are eager to see what new information and data this mission will bring.
"It's exciting because it's our chance to learn more about the universe the solar system and doing so learn more about ourselves as well," said Richard Chute, the chief development officer for The Planetary Society.
"We'll actually get a better idea of how the Earth is structured as well," he said.