NASA Has Landed On Mars

Screengrab of the NASA In Sight team celebrating touchdown at mission control

It's due to land on a flat plain, marking Nasa's first visit to Mars in six years. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 metres) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

After sailing 548 million kilometres on a six-month voyage through deep space, the robotic lander touched down on the dusty, rock-strewn surface of Mars just before 3 p.m. ET.

InSight is the first robot to land on Mars in six years, . and has been created to delve deeper into the structure of the planet and how it was formed.

"Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration", InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, said before this morning's success.

Congratulations flooded into the space agency following the success, including from Mike Pence, the U.S. vice president, who celebrated the "incredible milestone" of the country's eighth successful landing on Mars.

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NASA's InSight lander completed its seven-month interplanetary journey of almost 500 million kilometers in dramatic style on Monday, slamming into the Martian atmosphere at a speed of almost 20,000 kilometers per hour.

Flight controllers announced that the spacecraft InSight had reached the surface just before 7am AEDT, after a perilous supersonic descent through the red Martian skies.

NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover. "If we're going to send humans there, it'll be useful to see how often it gets impacted".

The friction as Insight traveled through the atmosphere generated intense heat, but the spacecraft's heat shield allowed the lander to withstand temperatures up to 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where the building blocks below the planet's surface that recorded its history.

NASA has successfully landed its InSight lander on Mars.

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The three-legged InSight spacecraft reached the surface after being slowed by a parachute and braking engines, the space agency said. "This image is really our farewell to InSight, our wish for good luck and our farewell to Mars itself".

Only NASA has so far managed to carry out a controlled entry, descent and landing, and many missions have failed. InSight hopes to study how rocky planets form and evolve. And Tuesday night, the Mars Odyssey orbiter should confirm that the spacecraft's solar arrays have unfurled.

Interestingly, meteorite impacts also had an important part to play in the selection of Elysium Planitia as InSight's landing zone, says Suzanne Smrekar, InSight deputy principal investigator, who is also at JPL.

"We can now look forward to the deployment of the instrument and the data that will start to arrive in the new year, to improve our understanding of how the planet formed".

The question of whether life ever existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.

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