NASA spacecraft lands on red planet after six-month journey

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Once mission managers are ready, InSight's robotic arm will pluck the volleyball-size seismometer from the lander's deck and place it on the ground, with its power provided by a tether.

Nasa is hoping to make history tonight by successfully landing a robotic spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

When it lands six-and-half minutes later, it will be travelling a mere 8kmh.

This is going to be tense.

A NASA spacecraft is just a few hours away from landing on Mars.

Will you be tuning in for the Mars landing?

It's touching down on Mars that aerospace engineers consider to be one of the greatest challenges in the solar system; in fact, about a third of missions successfully launched to the red planet don't survive a landing. The hope is that its protective covering will keep it safe from heat friction and sandstorms as the InSight comes to screeching halt while landing. Having launched on May 5, 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as it enters the atmosphere of Mars, InSight will be traveling at 14,100 miles per hour.

As the probe enters the atmosphere, the air molecules that make up the Martian atmosphere strike the heat shield, causing the shield to heat up and the craft to slow down. In less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, InSight will have to slowed from 12,300 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour before it gently lands on the surface of Mars.

NASA TV will broadcast the landing of the InSight Lander between 2pm and 3.30pm ET (7pm and 8.30pm GMT).

The landing will be streamed live on NASA's official YouTube presence.

How will NASA know when InSight lands safely?

The InSight lander aimed for a touchdown Monday afternoon, as anxiety built among those involved in the $1 billion global effort.

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After landing, InSight will send a tone beacon indicating its status. The findings on Mars could help explain the type of conditions at these so-called exoplanets "and how they fit into the story that we're trying to figure out for how planets form", he said. NASA satellites around Mars will provide updates.

InSight will be landing at Elysium Planitia, called "the biggest parking lot on Mars" by astronomers.

The space agency's older, smaller Opportunity was roaming around up there until June, when a global dust storm knocked it out of service.

On the surface, Mars is covered in red dust that is rich in iron oxide; this coating earned it the nickname "Red Planet".

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.

InSight is created to detect Marsquakes.

Once all this work is complete, InSight can finally get down to business, using the 50 to 100 marsquakes it might see over its 2-year primary mission to reveal the dimensions and composition of the martian interior-and, in turn, the story of its creation.

France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) made the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, the key element for sensing quakes.

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.

It is NASA's eighth successful Mars landing since the 1976 Vikings.

Is Curiosity still on Mars?

NASA's last Martian landfall took place with the Curiosity rover in 2012, so interest in the mission was heating up, with viewing parties planned at museums, planetariums and libraries across the US.

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