NASA InSight spacecraft on course for Mars touchdown

NASA’s Insight Mars Mission set to land on the Red Planet Monday

Mars probe faces daunting challenge to land safely

That extreme deceleration has to happen in just under seven minutes, it said.

But on Monday, just like everyone else around the world, I'll get a chance to live the flush-faced excitement of a rocket scientist as NASA lands its InSight mission on Mars.

The 800 pound InSight spacecraft is finally going to reach the red planet to closely study the deep interior of Mars.

If the landing all goes to plan, InSight will complete a two year (or one Mars year) mission to gather data about our planetary neighbour.

InSight will hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometres per hour (kph) and slow down to eight kph - about human jogging speed - before its three legs touch down on Martian soil. In about six-and-a-half minutes it will have to slow down to about 5 miles per hour using descent thrusters and a parachute.

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The stationary probe, launched from California in May, will then pause for 16 minutes for the dust to settle, literally, around the landing site before its disc-shaped solar arrays unfurl to provide power.

The JPL controllers also expect to receive a photo of the probe's surroundings on the flat, smooth Martian plain close to the planet's equator called the Elysium Planitia. Almost two dozen other Mars missions have been sent from other nations.

It is hoped InSight - which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - will help scientists understand the early evolution of Mars and other planets in the solar system, including the Earth, using instruments to probe deep beneath the planet's surface to measure temperatures and seismic activity.

"We can't joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-programme into the spacecraft". And by bouncing radio signals back and forth with Earth, it will tell us whether Mars wobbles on its orbit (ultimately telling us about the composition of the planet's core).

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