NASA Mars InSight lander mission to teach us more about Earth

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A NASA spacecraft described as a "robot geologist" is scheduled to arrive on Mars next week. InSight will attempt a successful landing on Monday, Nov. 26, at about noon.

After a journey spanning a mere 300 million miles and taking over six months, NASA's InSight will land on Mars' surface.

Nasa Nasa Insight spacecraft Insight landing Mars Insight Mars landing Insight landing on Mars live how to watch Insight Mars landing Mars Red Planet
New lander will add to humans' long fascination with Mars

The smaller, 880-pound (360 kg) InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st US -launched Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. The lander will experience what is called seven minutes of terror in which it will enter the red planet's atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour and then abruptly slow down to land. Engineers at mission control will continue monitoring the spacecraft and the red planet this weekend to make sure that everything is in order before landing in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars.

"It takes thousands of steps to go from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, and each one of them has to work perfectly", Rob Manning, the chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a video.

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A supersonic parachute will deploy first to slow the spacecraft's descent, and then InSight will drop from its heat shield about 1.6km from the surface, freefalling until reverse thrusters put on the final breaks.

Scientists expect to see a dozen to 100 marsquakes over the course of the mission, producing data to help them deduce the size, density and composition of the planet.

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InSight should provide our best look yet at Mars' deep interior.

Launched on May 5, Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander marks NASA's first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012. It seeks to uncover how rocky bodies within the Solar System, including Earth, were formed several billions of years ago.

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