After a 7-month journey, the spacecraft is now preparing for a 7-minute journey through scorching temperatures and traveling at top speeds of more than 12,000 miles per hour to reach the Martian surface.
The craft will land in the same manner as the Viking spacecraft before it, using the friction of a heat shield and then a parachute to slow down from hypersonic speeds as much as possible with atmospheric drag. However, a high-speed crash remains a risk. Its mission is to stick to one place after it lands - and study the interior of Mars from the planet's surface.
NASA TV will broadcast the landing of the InSight Lander between 2pm and 3.30pm ET (7pm and 8.30pm GMT). There'll be a post-landing news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, set for no earlier than 2 p.m. PT. You can also watch the landing on YouTube and UStream. From NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, engineers have a pretty good handle on rock abundance in the landing region, which is fairly low, so they don't expect InSight to drop on a boulder.
Bringing live coverage from 91 million miles away will not be easy.
After landing, InSight will send a tone beacon indicating its status.
"The goal of InSight is nothing less than to better understand the birth of the Earth, the birth of the planet we live on, and we're going to do that by going to Mars", said Principle Investigator Bruce Banerdt. NASA satellites around Mars will provide updates. In the U.S., you can see the landing in places like Times Square, the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Space Center Houston and LA's California Science Center.
InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas with few, if any, rocks.
The space agency's older, smaller Opportunity was roaming around up there until June, when a global dust storm knocked it out of service. The satellite also shot back a quick photo from Mars' surface.
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SEIS, supplied by France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), is a dome-shaped instrument containing three pendulums which will detect the seismic vibrations of Mars.
And InSight will also burrow five meters below the Martian surface to take the planet's temperature. "Landing on Mars is hard and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort".
Is Curiosity still on Mars?
Phoenix, however, was a great success, and the stationary lander outlasted NASA's expectations, surviving almost double the 90 Martian sols planned for the mission before succumbing to dust and cold in a way that we fervently hope the Opportunity rover has not. However, NASA's Opportunity rover, which landed in 2004, looks to have finished its mission after engineers lost contact with it in August 2018.
Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions.
Next up is NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which is modeled on Curiosity and planned to launch in summer 2021 for a February 2021 landing.
It's projected that it will take them about two weeks to test InSight's systems and its actuator arm, before they send the commands for the transfer of SEIS from the lander deck to the ground.