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NASA InSight: How the Mars robot will survive entry, descent, landing



nasa mars insight robotic probe landing mission illustration PIA22813_origAn illustration of NASA’s InSight Mars probe about to land on the Martian surface.NASA/JPL-Caltech

  • NASA’s InSight robot will attempt a Mars landing around 3 p.m. ET on Monday, November 26.
  • The $830-million mission must perfectly execute thousands of steps to not burn up, crash, or get tossed into deep space.
  • NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created a timeline of events so you can follow during the roughly 14-minute-long landing process.
  • You can watch NASA’s live video coverage of the landing starting around 2 p.m. ET.

If you aren’t nervous for NASA’s InSight Mars probe, you probably should be.

Getting a rocket ride to the red planet is the easy part. It’s touching down on Mars that aerospace engineers consider to be one of the greatest challenges in the solar system; in fact, about a third of landing missions successfully launched to the red planet don’t survive to reach the surface.

“It takes thousands of steps to go from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, and each one of them has to work perfectly,” Rob Manning, the chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a video.

Read more: 13 incredible facts you probably didn’t know about Mars

The 789-lb lander will officially begin its descent to Mars at 2:40 p.m. ET on Monday and touch down by 2:54 p.m. ET. After that, NASA hopes to use InSight to decode the internal structure of Mars, among other mysteries.

Here’s a minute-by-minute look at the biggest moments of InSight’s landing sequence — any of which could doom the robot.

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