How to watch NASA InSight landing on Mars TODAY

HeraldScotland

NASA will make history today, November 26 as the space agency's newest Mars probe, the InSight Mars Lander will touch down on the flat plains of Elysium Planitia. It is created to carry out its mission from a stationary position, and it is expected to land and set up shop in an area known as the Elysium Planitia, which JPL officials dubbed "the biggest parking lot on Mars", providing a flat solid surface for the craft to do its work. InSight had to slow down from 12,300 miles per hour as it entered the top of the Martian atmosphere.

Two tiny spacecraft that flew with the lander to Mars were able to relay telemetry from the probe as it descended to the surface. Compared to other countries, the US has an impressive record of successfully landing on Mars seven times in 40 years and failing just once. Talking to the BBC, NASA chief scientist Thomas Zurbuchen said InSight must first get through "seven minutes of terror", referring to the time it takes you to get through Mars' atmosphere. The vehicle, called InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), is operated by Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

The Nasa Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective. "Going to Mars is really, really hard".

The robotic geologist - created to explore Mars' mysterious insides - must go from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and lands on three legs.

At 3:01 pm ET, InSight should send a signal to let scientists on Earth know that it's alive and well. "We have 12 small descent engines grouped around the bottom of the lander that are providing the thrust to slow us down the final kilometer". The most immediate results we'll get from InSight will be from its cameras - as it takes panoramic shots of the ground around it, using its belly camera, and selfies from its arm cameras - and very soon, we will begin seeing results from its continuous weather-monitoring station!

So what do we know about the InSight robot, which is armed to the teeth with scientific instruments?

Flight controllers announced that the spacecraft InSight touched down Monday, after a perilous supersonic descent through the red Martian skies. Because it won't be roving over the surface, the landing site was an important determination.

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An artist's rendition of the InSight operating on the surface of Mars.

The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the ultra-high-tech seismometer listens for possible marsquakes.

The 800-pound (360-kilogram) InSight is stationary with three legs and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year.

This will allow planetary scientists to determine the temperature of the planet much closer to the core, which in turn will tell us about how Mars and Earth were formed.

We're expecting InSight, a spacecraft created to collect information on the makeup of Mars, to land at about 3pm US ET (8pm GMT).

The Lander had originally been scheduled to blast off in March 2016, but NASA suspended its launch preparations when a vacuum leak was found in the craft's prime science instrument.

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