NASA’s InSight spacecraft is at present moving towards Mars, due to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface on November 26, 2018. Unlike recent missions to Mars, which have included rovers, Mars InSight will stay put where it lands, on a high plain near Mars’ equator called Elysium Planitia, chosen for its flatness. The spacecraft is being followed to Mars by two mini-spacecraft comprising NASA's Mars Cube One (MarCO), the first deep-space mission for CubeSats.
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People from around the world will be able to watch the event live on NASA Television, the agency's website and social media platforms, including on YouTube, the US space agency said. The event will take place at 1.30 am in India on November 27.
InSight and MarCO flight controllers will monitor the spacecraft's entry, descent and landing from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where all landing events will take place.
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Five things to know about InSight's Mars landing:
- Successful landing on Mars is hard. Only about 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful.
- InSight uses tried-and-true technology. The spacecraft afterseparating from a cruise stage, an aeroshell descends through the atmosphere. The parachute and retrorockets slow the spacecraft down, and suspended legs absorb some shock from the touchdown.
- InSight is landing on the biggest parking lot on Mars. For the mission's team, the landing site at Elysium Planitia is sometimes thought as "the biggest parking lot on Mars.
- InSight was built to land in a dust storm. InSight’s engineers have built a tough spacecraft, able to touch down safely in a dust storm if it needs to. The spacecraft's heat shield is designed to be thick enough to withstand being "sandblasted" by dust.
- After landing, InSight will provide new science about rocky planets InSight will teach us about the interior of planets like our own. The mission team hopes that by studying the deep interior of Mars, we can learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.
(With inputs from agencies)