NASA's Insight Mission: When will it land and why should we care?

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The robotic geologist named InSight must go from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kilometres) to zero in six minutes flat, as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and lands on three legs. The final stage of its descent, however, is fraught with difficulty - NASA engineers characterize landing on Mars as "seven minutes of terror".

The InSight lander is different from the Curiosity Rover in that it will focus largely on the "deep interior" of Mars, according to NASA.

Phoenix, however, was a great success, and the stationary lander outlasted NASA's expectations, surviving almost double the 90 Martian sols planned for the mission before succumbing to dust and cold in a way that we fervently hope the Opportunity rover has not.

And don't expect a flurry of data just after landing today: InSight's science work won't begin in earnest for several months.

The landing will be streamed live on NASA's official YouTube presence.

InSight is short for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport".

And InSight will also burrow five meters below the Martian surface to take the planet's temperature. This will be followed by a post-landing news conference, which is scheduled to take place at about 5 P.M. EST.

The landing itself is a tricky maneuver.

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Scientists have said that data returned from the instrument will provide a glimpse into the internal activity and structure of the planet.

"It's taken more than a decade to bring InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars - and even longer since I was first inspired to try to undertake this kind of mission", said Bruce Banerdt of JPL, InSight's principal investigator.

To make accurate measurements, those instrumentsshouldn't be disturbed. In our solar system family, Mars is Earth's next-of-kin, the next-door relative that has captivated humans for millennia. "We've spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us", said Rob Grover, InSight's entry, descent and landing (EDL) lead, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a recent statement.

Are there any other missions to Mars planned? MRO can not receive and transmit data simultaneously, so it is MarCO that will likely inform Earth first of the landing's outcome.

There have been 44 attempts made to land on Mars; 18 have been successful while 23 have not. The spacecraft will then send out two signals-one to say it has landed then another to confirm it was a successful touchdown. The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander's robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

"As it burns in the atmosphere, to slow down, it burns the heat shield, there will actually be a communications blackout, where the communications from the spacecraft will not be able to be received here on earth", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

Explosives will eject the heat shield 15 seconds later, exposing the InSight probe hidden inside. Because it won't be roving over the surface, the landing site was an important determination. It will deploy a parachute to soften its landing. It's hoped that the radio telescopes will pick up those signals, though NASA also has a couple of CubeSats orbiting Mars that could help relay the signals. That's a part of the spacecraft only needed while InSight is traveling from Earth to Mars.

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