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NASA & the Mars Insight Lander

NASA’s InSight spacecraft will complete its seven-month journey to Mars today. Live NASA coverage NASA Live: Watch InSight Mars Landing Online

It will have cruised 301,223,981 miles (484,773,006 km) at a top speed of 6,200 mph (10,000 kph). InSight is due to touch down at approx 8 p.m. GMT (3 p.m. EST). Mon 26th Nov 2018.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission, are preparing for the spacecraft to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend with a parachute, and retrorockets, to make a semi soft landing on the Martian surface.

InSight — which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — will be the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars.

“We’ve studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system.”

Before InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, there are a few final preparations to make. At 1:47 p.m. PST (4:47 p.m. EST) engineers successfully conducted a last trajectory correction maneuver to steer the spacecraft within a few kilometers of its targeted entry point over Mars. About two hours before hitting the atmosphere, the entry, descent and landing (EDL) team might also upload some final tweaks to the algorithm that guides the spacecraft safely to the surface.


The one-way time for a signal to reach Earth from Mars is eight minutes and seven seconds on Nov. 26. Times listed below are in Earth Receive Time, or the time JPL Mission Control may receive the signals relating to these activities.
  • 11:40 a.m. PST (2:40 p.m. EST) — Separation from the cruise stage that carried the mission to Mars
  • 11:41 a.m. PST (2:41 p.m. EST) — Turn to orient the spacecraft properly for atmospheric entry
  • 11:47 a.m. PST (2:47 p.m. EST) — Atmospheric entry at about 12,300 mph (19,800 kph), beginning the entry, descent and landing phase
  • 11:49 a.m. PST (2:49 p.m. EST) — Peak heating of the protective heat shield reaches about 2,700°F (about 1,500°C)
  • 15 seconds later — Peak deceleration, with the intense heating causing possible temporary dropouts in radio signals
  • 11:51 a.m. PST (2:51 p.m. EST) — Parachute deployment
  • 15 seconds later — Separation from the heat shield
  • 10 seconds later — Deployment of the lander's three legs
  • 11:52 a.m. PST (2:52 p.m. EST) — Activation of the radar that will sense the distance to the ground
  • 11:53 a.m. PST (2:53 p.m. EST) — First acquisition of the radar signal
  • 20 seconds later — Separation from the back shell and parachute
  • 0.5 second later — The retrorockets, or descent engines, begin firing
  • 2.5 seconds later — Start of the "gravity turn" to get the lander into the proper orientation for landing
  • 22 seconds later — InSight begins slowing to a constant velocity (from 17 mph to a constant 5 mph, or from 27 kph to 8 kph) for its soft landing
  • 11:54 a.m. PST (2:54 p.m. EST) — Expected touchdown on the surface of Mars
  • 12:01 p.m. PST (3:01 p.m. EST) — "Beep" from InSight's X-band radio directly back to Earth, indicating InSight is alive and functioning on the surface of Mars
  • No earlier than 12:04 p.m. PST (3:04 p.m. EST), but possibly the next day — First image from InSight on the surface of Mars
  • No earlier than 5:35 p.m. PST (8:35 p.m. EST) — Confirmation from InSight via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter that InSight's solar arrays have deployed
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Landing on Mars is hard
Only about 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful. The U.S. is the only nation whose missions have survived a Mars landing. The thin atmosphere – just 1 percent of Earth's – means that there's little friction to slow down a spacecraft. Despite that, NASA has had a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed on and roved across the surface of the Red Planet.

InSight uses tried-and-true technology

In 2008, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, successfully landed the Phoenix spacecraft at Mars' North Pole. InSight is based on the Phoenix spacecraft, both of which were built by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. Despite tweaks to its heat shield and parachute, the overall landing design is still very much the same: After separating from a cruise stage, an aeroshell descends through the atmosphere. The parachute and retrorockets slow the spacecraft down, and suspended legs absorb some shock from the touchdown.

InSight is landing on "the biggest parking lot on Mars"

One of the benefits of InSight's science instruments is that they can record equally valuable data regardless of where they are on the planet. That frees the mission from needing anything more complicated than a flat, solid surface (ideally with few boulders and rocks). For the mission's team, the landing site at Elysium Planitia is sometimes thought as "the biggest parking lot on Mars."

InSight was built to land in a dust storm

InSight’s engineers have built a tough spacecraft, able to touch down safely in a dust storm if it needs to. The spacecraft's heat shield is designed to be thick enough to withstand being "sandblasted" by dust. Its parachute has suspension lines that were tested to be stronger than Phoenix's, in case it faces more air resistance due to the atmospheric conditions expected during a dust storm.

The entry, descent and landing sequence also has some flexibility to handle shifting weather. The mission team will be receiving daily weather updates from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in the days before landing so that they can tweak when InSight's parachute deploys and when it uses radar to find the Martian surface.

After landing, InSight will provide new science about rocky planets

InSight will teach us about the interior of planets like our own. The mission team hopes that by studying the deep interior of Mars, we can learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed. Our home planet and Mars were molded from the same primordial stuff more than 4.5 billion years ago but then became quite different. Why didn’t they share the same fate?

When it comes to rocky planets, we’ve only studied one in detail: Earth. By comparing Earth's interior to that of Mars, InSight's team members hope to better understand our solar system. What they learn might even aid the search for Earth-like exoplanets, narrowing down which ones might be able to support life. So while InSight is a Mars mission, it’s also much more than a Mars mission.

NASA has had the lion's share of success at landing on Mars, they deserve the credit, they've paid in and the chances are high they will collect, as a NASA spokesperson said, going to Mars is really, really difficult. Good luck NASA.
NASA has had the lion's share of success at landing on Mars, they deserve the credit, they've paid in and the chances are high they will collect, as a NASA spokesperson said, going to Mars is really, really difficult. Good luck NASA.
Fingers crossed.
I'm also hoping it goes well, I can image there will be a lot of people biting their fingernails at mission control for the final 15 minutes though.


Stunning. It's only 120 years ago that Marconi transmitted a radio signal across the Atlantic.
Well, it's positive so far. I am amused at the fact the landing is being overseen by NASA's Entry, Descent and Landing team. Big rooms full of very brainy people, all wearing EDL badges. No sign of Tommy yet though.

Edit - it's landed apparently. Bit of a wait now to find out if it's intact and everything is working.
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Bloody brilliant !!
Nice to hear the cheers as it landed, just waiting for the confirmation and pictures to come in now.

1st picture:


Mission team members won't know whether InSight successfully deployed its solar panels until 8:35 p.m. EST (0135 GMT on Nov. 27) at the earliest. Without those arrays extended, the lander cannot survive, let alone probe the Red Planet's interior like never before — the main goal of the $850 million InSight mission.
The agonizing delay is unavoidable; NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter won't be in position to relay the deployment confirmation to mission control until more than 5 hours after touchdown, agency officials said.
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War Hero
News. American space probe lands.

Practice makes perfect..

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