Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Science | By Patricia Jimenez

Mars landing today: What time is NASA Insight landing today?

Mars landing today: What time is NASA Insight landing today?

InSight is the first Mars landing made by the space agency since Curiosity touched down in 2012. 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.

Along for the ride to Mars are two communication relay CubeSats, MarCO-A and B. The briefcase-sized spacecraft were intended as demonstrators, but since both have functioned admirably en-route to the Red Planet as independent flyers, will provide a short-term communication relay for InSight as the lander heads down to the surface.

As the spacecraft speeds toward Mars and begins descending through the thin atmosphere - which lacks the type of friction that usually slows landing objects - a parachute will be deployed and retro rockets will be fired to ease the descent.

InSight is scheduled to touch down on Mars today (Nov. 26) at 3 p.m. ET, joining Mars' other robotic inhabitants: Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit (though only Curiosity is now "live", sending signals back to Earth).

It's an exciting mission for NASA and scientists the world over, but before the research can start the lander needs to make it down on to the surface of Mars. "Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system".

Half a second later: The lander's retrorockets (or descent engines) fire up. Long-distance Landing Why all the hype, when this is just another landing on Mars?

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

InSight also is fitted with a German-made drill to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 metres) underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat.

This includes the intrepid Curiosity rover - whose team took to Twitter to share their enthusiasm ahead of the big Mars landing scheduled to take place on November 26.

Today's the day for the Mars InSight lander's touchdown on the Red Planet, and NASA is pulling out all the stops to let us in on the action.

The device will begin to enter the planet's atmosphere around noon today, hurdling at a rate of over 12,000 miles per hour. This is when the intense heat caused a temporary drop in the radio signal from the craft. You can watch a live feed of the control room above, beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST, with commentary including interviews with NASA engineers and scientists.

The InSight mission and landing is being run from two control rooms: one at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and another at Lockheed Martin in suburban Denver, Colorado.

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The JPL controllers also expect to receive a photo of the probe's surroundings on the flat, smooth Martian plain close to the planet's equator called the Elysium Planitia.

Unlike its roving companions, InSight will not be directly searching for signs of life on Mars.

Mars looms ever larger in America's space future. Mission managers wanted a boring spot - they want the probe to sit quietly.

- The first image from the surface of Mars is expected at 2004 GMT.

Experts hope the mission will be the first to unlock geological secrets of the planet's hidden core, using a probe to dig 16ft (5m) beneath the surface. This should help answer questions about the formation of rocky planets in the inner solar system.

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