Listen to NASA land Robot Spaceship on Mars

Mars In Sight mission about to touchdown on Red Planet – here’s what you need to know

An illustration of the In Sight mission lander

Unlike its roving companions, InSight will not be directly searching for signs of life on Mars.

"To start out with we're behind", Marinan says, "but by the time InSight lands we will be beyond Mars".

InSight is the first mission dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, the first to place a seismometer directly on the surface of another planet and will probe 15 time deeper than any previous mission.

On November 26, NASA's Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) will arrive at the red planet, having spent over six months traveling through space.

Coverage of the landing will begin at 2 P.M. EST with live landing commentary and a feed from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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.

The Lander had originally been scheduled to blast off in March 2016, but NASA suspended its launch preparations when a vacuum leak was found in the craft's prime science instrument.

NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.

Some of the technology being used to monitor the InSight spacecraft is experimental, however NASA are hoping that an image of the Martian surface might be coming back to Earth following the InSight landing. That's like scoring a soccer goal from about 80,000 miles away, and doing it at an exactly 12 degree angle to prevent burning up or skipping off the atmosphere. NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will help verify this as it flies over the landing site.

The lander launching in California
The lander launching in California

"Indeed it is a heavenly plain, and it is very plain, but it is actually flawless", InSight project manager Tom Hoffman said, "It's safe, it's a great place not only to land, it's a great place to do the science that we want to do".

Early in its history, Mars may have looked a lot like Earth.

Once on the ground, the lander will begin its two-year mission of looking at how Mars was formed. The lander has three main scientific instruments: the shielded seismometer that Curiosity tweeted about, a "mole" that's created to burrow down as far as 15 feet and take Mars' temperature below ground, and a radio transponder that can make precise measurements of Mars' movements.

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.

Seven hours after touchdown, NASA reported that InSight's vital solar panels were open and recharging its batteries.

"Engineers still need to conduct a last trajectory correction maneuver to steer the spacecraft toward its entry point over Mars", NASA said. It's also taking over NY with the landing set to be shown on big screens in Times Square.

"Landing on Mars is hard".

The two tiny spacecraft will continue in their sun-centered orbit, and the MarCo team is discussing with NASA options for further projects for the mission. As these tremors travel through rock, they reveal the thickness and composition of the planet's internal layers, NASA officials explained in a statement.

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

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