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NASA's InSight Mars Lander Set To Touch Down Monday

24 November 2018

InSight was launched in Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last May 5, together with MarCO, but the orbiters have been navigating on their own since the launch.

Named WALL-E and EVE after the main characters in the 2008 animated movie, the twin CubeSats will pass within a few thousand miles (kilometres) of Mars as the lander attempts its dicey touchdown.

You can watch NASA's live video coverage of the landing below starting around 2 p.m. EST.

Unlike the Curiosity and the Opportunity rovers sent as part of NASA's program to study the surface of the planet, the InSight's goal is to dig deep and listen for quakes.

Mars InSight

"And we're going to stay vigilant till InSight settles into its home in the Elysium Planitia region", Grover said.

NASA expects the heat shield to remain hot for around 3 minutes until the parachute deploys.

'Landing on Mars is hard.

Once on the ground, InSight will stretch out to 20 feet long and weigh almost 800 pounds. It also has seismometer and thermometer in order to measure the frequency and magnitude of marsquakes. This data could help scientists decode the internal structure of Mars, including to what extent its core is solid or liquid.

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The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars' deep interior.

The United States is the only country to have missions that survived landing on Mars. NASA hopes to use this information to draw new comparisons between the interiors of Earth and the red planet.

"Mars had conditions more similar to Earth early on - in the first billion years - so what may have been happening in our solar system that allowed life to start on this planet may also be evident on Mars itself".

On Monday, NASA will be relying on other spacecraft and radio telescopes on Earth to monitor InSight's radio signals and determine when it reaches the red planet.

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The landing won't be captured on video, but NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will broadcast live views of mission control, along with updates, expert commentary, and animations showing every step of InSight's descent.

The rest of us will hear about the landing later on November 26, when NASA holds a news conference after the fact, sometime after 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT).

Astronomy enthusiasts, students, scientists and the general public are encouraged to attend the event by registering online in advance, and collecting access cards from the Library.

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NASA's InSight Mars Lander Set To Touch Down Monday