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NASA’s InSight lander is about to reach Mars — watch the landing live



NASA InSight Mars lander
artist illustration of the InSight lander on


  • NASA’s
    Insight lander
    , the first mission to Mars since
    2012, is scheduled to land on the red planet Monday, November
  • Once there, the lander will study Mars’ temperature and check
    for marsquakes.
  • The landing is expected to be difficult because of the
    planet’s thin atmosphere and potential dust storms.

, the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars,
is scheduled to complete its six-month trip to the red planet on
Monday afternoon. 

InSight, the first spacecraft NASA has sent to Mars since the
Curiosity rover landed there in 2012, will drill
about 16 feet down
to check the red planet’s temperature and
insert a seismometer into Martian soil to study marsquakes.

But before it can do any of that, the spacecraft has to

It won’t be easy — the atmosphere on Mars is very thin
compared to Earth’s, so it does not produce enough friction for a
spacecraft to slow down to a safe landing speed. Only 40% of
missions to Mars have survived the landing; the United States is
the only country to have successfully landed anything on the red

According to NASA, the InSight lander will enter the
Martian atmosphere going about 12,300 mph. It will only have
about 6.5 minutes to slow down to about 5 mph, which it will do
by using a parachute and firing descent thrusters.

If everything goes according to plan, the spacecraft is
expected to land on a flat, stable surface at Elysium
Planitia — a broad Martian plain with few rocks or boulders — at
about 3 p.m. EST on Monday. 

InSight’s design, including its heat shield and parachute,
very similar
to that of NASA’s
Phoenix spacecraft
, which successfully landed near Mars’
north pole in 2008. However, InSight will have more mass when it
enters the Martian atmosphere than Phoenix did, which makes the
landing more challenging. The new spacecraft is also expected to
touch down at a higher elevation than Phoenix did, which means it
will have less atmosphere to rely on for slowing

The InSight mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

set off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base
in May,
was the first interplanetary rocket that NASA has launched from
the West Coast. The lander left Earth accompanied by two small
Mars-bound satellites that are collectively called Mars Cube

Read more:

A tiny satellite bound for Mars just snapped a picture that makes
the red planet look puny and insignificant

Once set up, InSight will stretch 20 feet long and weigh
about 800 pounds. It’ll be powered by two 7-foot-wide solar
arrays. To measure marsquakes (which are similar to earthquakes
but, of course, not on Earth), the lander

 antennas that can record how much the
planet shakes and wobbles. This data could help scientists
determine whether Mars’ core is solid or liquid. 

nasa mars insight robotic probe landing mission illustration PIA22813_orig
An illustration of NASA’s
InSight Mars probe about to land on the Martian


The lander is supposed to collect data on Mars until at
least November 2020. 
NASA hopes to use this
information to draw new comparisons between the interiors of
Earth and the red planet. Eventually, the research could be used
to learn more about which types of Earth-like exoplanets could
support life. 

On Monday, NASA will be relying on other spacecraft and
radio telescopes on Earth to monitor InSight’s radio signals and
determine when it reaches the red planet. 
lander’s design should allow it to touch down safely
on Monday even if it reaches Elysium Planitia during a dust
storm, thanks to the thick heat shield that protects InSight from

Although the entire landing
won’t be captured on video
, NASA will broadcast live
commentary and updates, along with photos showing InSight’s

You can watch the landing commentary live on NASA’s stream below,
starting around 2 p.m. ET on Monday:


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