Nasa's latest Mars craft nears landing for unprecedented seismic mission

InSight is scheduled to land at Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator on Monday. Video courtesy NASA

InSight is scheduled to land at Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator on Monday. Video courtesy NASA

The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes. The goal of the instrument is to provide a definitive measurement of the heat still flowing out from the interior of Mars.

The 363kg lander, which aimed for an afternoon touchdown, must go from 20,000 km/h to zero in six minutes flat as it penetrates the Martian atmosphere, deploys a supersonic parachute, fires its descent engines and - hopefully - lands on three legs.

While you might think that this is relatively straightforward, success rates for Mars landings are actually rather poor at only around 40%.

An uninterrupted, clean feed from cameras inside JPL Mission Control, with mission audio only, will be available on the NASA TV Media Channel. And if you're in NY, you can stand with fellow New Yorkers, tourists and fully grown adults in Elmo suits to celebrate the moment in Times Square. At 3 P.M. EST the spacecraft should touch down on Mars.

NASA scientists chose InSight's landing zone, the vast and boring Elysium Planitia, because they're interested in Mars's interior, not its surface.

NASA's top scientists admitted to sleepless nights, sweaty palms, stomach aches and moments of pure terror as their $993 million Mars Insight spacecraft approaches a high-drama finale Monday: landing on Mars.

The term refers to the amount of time the lander will take to go from the edge of Mars' atmosphere to the planet floor.

InSight is landing in what seems to bea very boring part of Mars, known as Elysium Planitia.

Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at Nasa, said: "Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars' deep interior - information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home".

Rocket Launch Rescheduled for Monday
Some of those smaller satellites aim to build an internet network capable of supporting smart devices back on Earth's surface. Now, SpaceX and its workhorse vehicle is ready to set the record for most satellites launched by a single American rocket.

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.

NASA and Lockheed engineers won't know right away whether the spacecraft has made it safely down to the surface-there is a time delay of 8.1 minutes for communications between Earth and Mars at present.

They'll take photos of the landscape to get information about slopes and rock height and take temperature data.

EARLIER: A NASA spacecraft's six-month journey to Mars is nearing its dramatic grand finale. France and Germany have contributed about $180m for SEIS and HP³ respectively.

The need for patience is necessary as it will take two to three months for InSight to set up its instruments, and another several weeks to position each and calibrate those instruments.

Once InSight phones home from the Martian surface, though, he expects to behave much like his three young grandsons did at Thanksgiving dinner, running around like insane and screaming. This means there will be some delay between what is happening on the Red Planet and what we see on Earth.

After landing, InSight will unfurl its solar panels and robotic arm and study the entire planet from its parking spot.

PALCA: Even though they can't do anything to help InSight as it descends, mission managers should be able to watch its progress.

Latest News