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InSight is scheduled to touch down on Mars today (Nov. 26) at 3 p.m. ET, joining Mars' other robotic inhabitants: Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit (though only Curiosity is now "live", sending signals back to Earth).

As the probe descended, the air molecules that make up the Martian atmosphere struck the heat shield, causing the shield to heat up and the craft to slow down.

"Keeping in mind our ambitious goal to eventually send humans to the surface of the Moon and then Mars, I know that our incredible science and engineering team - the only in the world to have successfully landed spacecraft on the Martian surface - will do everything they can to successfully land InSight on the Red Planet".

The planetary know-how gained from InSight's $1 billion, two-year operation could even spill over to rocky worlds beyond our solar system, according to Banerdt. Although 70+ robotic spacecraft, orbiters, landers, and rovers have made the trip to Mars, 40 percent of them have been lost during landing.

Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leapt out of their chairs, screaming, dancing and hugging, upon learning that InSight's had safely arrived on Mars, the graveyard for a multitude of previous missions. This entire process needs to occur autonomously, as NASA can not steer or otherwise control the spacecraft as it descends.

The MarCo satellites could also relay InSight's first picture of its landing site.

InSight handed NASA its eighth win. MarCO will try to share data about InSight when it enters the Martian atmosphere for the landing.

"Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort". Long-distance Landing Why all the hype, when this is just another landing on Mars?

At 3:01 pm ET, InSight should send a signal to let scientists on Earth know that it's alive and well.

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - With just a day to go, NASA's InSight spacecraft aimed for a bull's-eye touchdown on Mars, zooming in like an arrow with no turning back. "While I'm looking forward to those first images from the surface, I am even more eager to see the first data sets revealing what is happening deep below our landing pads". "We have 12 small descent engines grouped around the bottom of the lander that are providing the thrust to slow us down the final kilometer".

The seismometer "is really the heart of the InSight mission", Banerdt said.

But on Tuesday afternoon, we may get the first image back from InSight of its new home on the surface of Mars.

An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars.

You may be wondering if InSight will meet native forms of life during its stay on Mars; alas, that question will remain unanswered.

The 800-pound (360-kilogram) InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year.

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.

It will take weeks for InSight to get started on its primary work, and months to years for the mission to get solid science results about the interior of Mars, but that is the kind of mission that we've signed on to with this lander.

The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the ultra-high-tech seismometer listens for possible marsquakes.


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