NASA InSight Lands Safely on Mars with VxWorks

November 26, 2018 Brandon Lewis

Wind River VxWorks completed its second successful trip to Mars this morning by managing the avionics systems of NASA’s InSight Spacecraft lander during its 80-mile descent to the Martian surface. In 2012, VxWorks also piloted the Mars Curiosity Rover through its entry, descent, and landing sequence.

The VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) was responsible for complex automated maneuvers of both InSight and Curiosity, providing system-wide determinism and synchronization through a Red Planet atmosphere that is 100x thinner than Earth’s. The InSight descent involved deploying parachutes and a battery of rockets to slow the craft from roughly 12,300 mph to about 5 mph on its way to the surface. VxWorks facilitated this event by coordinating real-time sensor readings with sub-millisecond precision.

Launched on May 5, 2018, the InSight lander completed its 300 million-mile journey at 11:54 AM Pacific Time, and will now study the deep interior of Mars until November 24, 2020.

The VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) has also been designed into space missions such as the space station resupply vessel Cygnus, Juno, the Spitzer Space Telescope, Deep Space I, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, and the Global Precipitation Measurement project.

For more information on Wind River VxWorks, visit


About the Author

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis, Editor-in-Chief of Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for guiding the property's content strategy, editorial direction, and engineering community engagement, which includes IoT Design, Automotive Embedded Systems, the Power Page, Industrial AI & Machine Learning, and other publications. As an experienced technical journalist, editor, and reporter with an aptitude for identifying key technologies, products, and market trends in the embedded technology sector, he enjoys covering topics that range from development kits and tools to cyber security and technology business models. Brandon received a BA in English Literature from Arizona State University, where he graduated cum laude. He can be reached by email at

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