NASA's InSight lander will touch down on Mars today


NASA scientists chose InSight's landing zone, the vast and boring Elysium Planitia, because they're interested in Mars's interior, not its surface. It was launched in May from California, and hurdled 301 million miles through space before reaching Mars.

The InSight spacecraft, which took off from California almost six months ago, finally made its landing on the surface of Mars Monday. Talking to the BBC, NASA chief scientist Thomas Zurbuchen said InSight must first get through "seven minutes of terror", referring to the time it takes you to get through Mars' atmosphere.

There will not be any live video streaming of Mars Insight's approach on Monday, and signals will be transmitted back to Earth on an eight-minute delay.

Earth's success rate at Mars is just 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the US, Russia and other countries dating back to 1960.

Watch below as Rob Manning, chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains the critical steps of InSight's landing.

The power, which NASA reckoned would be enough run a household blender, will drive the three main instruments carried by the lander.

Here we reveal when and how to watch the Mars Lander touch down on Mars.

"Once we get to the surface, InSight is a slow-motion mission", InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, also of JPL, said during yesterday's news conference. This means the lander will not be expected to scour the surface of the Red Planet but rather take measurements of what is happening underground and towards the alien world's center.

NASA’s In Sight lander to study interior of Mars
NASA’s In Sight lander to study interior of Mars

The terror? Well, as NASA engineers have explained, when it comes to Mars landings they often need everything to be in ideal sequence during that tiny timeframe for things to go right. That's longer than the seven-minute landing sequence. "About two hours before hitting the atmosphere, the entry, descent and landing (EDL) team might also upload some final tweaks to the algorithm that guides the spacecraft safely to the surface". This intense heat could cause temporary dropouts in radio signals. Unlike NASA's famous rovers Curiosity and Opportunity, InSight will remain in the exact place it lands. The probe will first touch the atmosphere six minutes and 45 seconds before landing.

"InSight is a mission to Mars, but it's much, much more than a Mars mission".

NASA is the only space agency to have made it, and is invested in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first Mars-bound human explorers in the 2030s.

Since then, the lander has been making its way patiently towards its drop zone on the plains of Mars' Elysium Planitia.

Mars looms ever larger in America's space future. This spot is open, flat safe and boring, which is what the scientists want for a stationary two-year mission.

InSight is the first dedicated to unlocking secrets from deep below the Martian surface.

These instruments include the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures to investigate what causes the seismic waves on Mars the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package to burrow beneath the surface and determine heat flowing out of the planet and the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment to use radios to study the planet's core.

InSight will also deploy a seismometer to monitor earthquakes, which will also uncover information about the Red Planet's interior.

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