Today is a special day for NASA. The first robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of Mars will touch down today after a six-month voyage through space. Traveling 301 million miles from Earth, the Mars InSight spacecraft is due to reach its destination at around 3pm. The mission control team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles prepared to conduct a final adjustment to the InSight’s flight path yesterday to maneuver the spacecraft closer toward its entry point over Mars. If all goes according to plan, InSight will streak into the pink Martian sky nearly at 12,000 miles per hour. Its 77-mile descent to the surface will be slowed by atmospheric friction, a giant parachute and retro rockets. When it lands 6-1/2 minutes later, it will be traveling a mere 5 mph.
The site is roughly 373 miles from the 2012 landing spot of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity, the last spacecraft sent to the Red Planet by NASA. The smaller, 880-pound InSight – its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – marks the 21st U.S.-launched Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. Nearly two dozen other Mars missions have been sent from other nations. The lander will spend 24 months – about one Martian year – using seismic monitoring and underground drilling to gather clues on how Mars formed and, by extension, the origins of Earth and other rocky planets of the inner solar system more than 4 billion years ago.
Photo Credit: NASA via Twitter
It’s almost time! In less than 15 hours, I’ll plunge through the #Martian atmosphere. But before I do, my team tweaked my flight path one last time to ensure I’m on track for my #MarsLanding tomorrow. Read: https://t.co/6ekCBE2vUW pic.twitter.com/HiejIwCoHb
— NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) November 26, 2018