PdC graduate involved with InSight landing on Mars

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).

Mitch Nelson

The Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), located on the robotic arm of NASA's InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018, the same day the spacecraft touched down on the Red Planet. The camera's transparent dust cover is still on in this image, to prevent particulates kicked up during landing from settling on the camera's lens. This image was relayed from InSight to Earth via NASA's Odyssey spacecraft, currently orbiting Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech photo)

By Correne Martin

A part of Prairie du Chien landed on Mars this week.

Mitch Nelson, a 1990 Prairie du Chien graduate, is a quality assurance engineer for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif. He had the honor of participating in the InSight mission to Mars, Monday, Nov. 26. The probe, which NASA launched in early May, landed safely Monday at 1:52 p.m. (central standard time) 

In addition to working on the project, Nelson bought “tickets to Mars.” Along with 14,000 other people who had their names land on the Red Planet Monday, the names of Mitch Nelson and his nephew, A.J. Nelson, also made the trip. 

Mitch is the son of Tom and Cathie Nelson, of Prairie du Chien. His parents are proud that he’s one of countless graduates from Prairie who have had big dreams and gone on to achieve them.

“He was involved in the inspection part of it, in the beginning,” Tom Nelson said of his son’s role in the project. “The neat thing is that hundreds of thousands of people were involved in putting together this project. It left in May and now it’s there gathering scientific information. This is a big deal; it’s their Super Bowl.”

According to NASA’s website (nasa.gov), the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on Mars after an almost seven-month, 300-million-mile journey from Earth. InSight’s two-year mission is to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the moon, formed. 

InSight launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California May 5. The lander touched down Monday, near Mars’ equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia, with a signal affirming a completed landing sequence.

“Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a news release. “InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the moon and later to Mars. This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team.”

NASA reported the landing signal was relayed to its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, via NASA’s two small experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, which launched on the same rocket as InSight and followed the lander to Mars. They are the first CubeSats sent into deep space. After successfully carrying out a number of communications and in-flight navigation experiments, the twin MarCOs were set in position to receive transmissions during InSight’s entry, descent and landing.

According to Ars Technica, a technology and science news website, only about 40 percent of the landers and rovers sent to Mars during the last five decades have ever made it safely down to the surface. Of the international space agencies that have tried, only NASA has succeeded in making a soft landing on the planet.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet