NASA Mars InSight lander mission to teach us more about Earth

NASA’s Insight Mars Mission set to land on the Red Planet Monday

Mars probe faces daunting challenge to land safely

It's InSight lander is scheduled to land on the red planet Monday, November 26.

After six months of a deep space voyage, NASA's new Mars lander InSight is ready to descend and explore the red planet.

NASA's Insight spacecraft will hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometres per hour (kph) and slow down to 8 kph before its three legs touch down on Martian soil. When it lands 6-1/2 minutes later, it will be traveling a mere 5 miles per hour (8 kph).

This would mean engineers at JPL and another team at Lockheed Martin Space would be able to tell what the lander did during EDL approximately eight minutes after InSight completes its activities, it said. It is expected to land on a flat, stable surface on a broad Martian plain called Elysium Planitia.

The smaller, 880-pound (360 kg) InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st USA -launched Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. We've spent years testing our plans, learning from other Mars landings and studying all the conditions Mars can throw at us.

In our solar system family, Mars is Earth's next-of-kin, the next-door relative that has captivated humans for millennia.

"What this helps us understand is how we got to here", said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator, during a pre-landing briefing with reporters last week.

Scientists consider Mars a tantalising time capsule.

NASA's 2012 probe, Curiosity, was tasked with a scouting mission while InSight's focus will be to learn what goes on under Mars' surface taking the planet's temperature, and measuring marsquakes. Hence the nervousness of Nasa engineers who are directing their $800m InSight craft after a 300 million-mile journey at a tiny target zone in the planet's atmosphere measuring a mere 15 miles by 6 miles.

Mars has a nasty habit of living up to its mythological name and besting Earth when it comes to accepting visitors.

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