Nasa's InSight lander to study interior of Mars

Jo Lloyd
November 24, 2018

The lander was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California on May 5, 2018 and has been hurtling through space towards our closest neighbour ever since.

"We're really excited. There's nothing as exciting as landing on Mars". Like Curiosity, Mars 2020 would be lowered to the surface from a rocket-powered "Sky Crane" platform, which NASA says is the safest way to land a 1-ton payload.

All systems are go for landing on Mars on November 26, NASA personnel affiliated with the InSight mission confirmed during a pair of news conferences held today (Nov. 21).

It won't be easy - the atmosphere on Mars is about 1% as thick as Earth's, which provides enough friction to burn up a spacecraft but makes it hard to slow down enough for a safe landing.

For the first time in six years, a new mission is about to land on Mars.

Scientists have debated where to land the rover for the past four years, and whittled down their decision from a total of 64 possible sites. It'll also have experiments to test technologies that future astronauts will need, such as producing oxygen from Mars' thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere, and the equipment that's needed to extract and store samples for future missions to pick up.

You can watch NASA's live video coverage of the landing below starting around 2 p.m. EST.

Gale Crater, with its many layers of sediment, was chosen to tell the story of how Mars transitioned from a warm, wet planet to the frigid and dusty one it is today.

'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'.

NASA expects the heat shield to remain hot for around 3 minutes until the parachute deploys.

To measure marsquakes (which are similar to earthquakes but, of course, not on Earth), the lander will use a robotic arm to set down a packet of seismometers, which can record any ground vibrations from meteorite impacts, tectonic movements, volcanism, or other seismic activity.

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.

If the feed above doesn't work, try NASA's YouTube channel or NASA TV.

The landing is scheduled to take place on November 26 at approximately 3PM ET.

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