Mars mission: Countdown to NASA spacecraft's daring touchdown

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NASA engineers celebrated InSight landing with NFL handshake

Nearly as many missions to Mars have failed as have succeeded. The second phase will be characterized mainly by deploying and configuring special tools of research Rover and their subsequent use in the process of drilling and analysis of rocks.

The first science data isn't expected until March, but InSight will be sharing snapshots of Mars along the way.

The dramatic arrival of the $993 million spacecraft - created to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet's inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape - marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in Nasa's history. It takes less than seven minutes for the craft to touch down on the surface, but fourteen minutes for signals to be relayed from Mars to Earth and back. That is the objective of the new space Rover, which should also reveal many interesting points.

NASA's InSight spacecraft arrived on Mars on Monday after a perilous, supersonic plunge.

Meanwhile, a radio transmitter will send back signals tracking Mars' subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet's core and possibly whether it remains molten.

The mission's primary instrument suite will come online over the next three months.

The robotic geologist - created to explore Mars' insides, surface to core - must go from 19,800 km/h to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and, hopefully, lands on three legs.

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It was NASA's eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years.

"With all this Ferndale material on Mars, I believe we may need to annex part of the red planet", said Mayor Jon Mutchler. The lander's sensitive instruments are able to obtain their best measurements in direct contact with the Martian surface.

InSight's first photo of Mars shows dust speckled on the transparent dust cover that was over the camera. This in turn will be incorporated into humanity's more general knowledge of how rocky worlds form, from Earth and the Moon to exoplanets such as those in the Trappist-1 system.

Two briefcase-sized satellites known as CubeSats followed the exploratory probe all the way from Earth to the Red Planet. On a clear day, the panels provide 600 to 700 watts - enough power to run a kitchen blender and conduct science.

InSight's mission voyage to Mars and ongoing communications will also be supported by the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), which is managed by the CSIRO on behalf of NASA.

Now that InSight is on the ground, the company's role in the mission is done, but Wilson said the real payoff is when the scientific data starts coming back.

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