NASA’s six-month expedition to reach Mars to study its interior will take seven minutes to land on Monday at 20:00 GMT.
InSight lander – the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – is the US space agency’s first craft dedicated to peer beneath Mars’ surface and monitor its interior.
According to NASA, it is the first outer space robotic explorer designed to give the billions-years-old Mars a “thorough checkup” by studying its crust, mantle and core.
Out of the 44 NASA missions sent to Mars, only 18 have been successful. The “seven minutes of terror”, which are possibly the riskiest in the entire mission, will be when the robotic spacecraft will enter the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speed, then touch down on the red planet’s region called Elysium Planitia.
It can take up to 20 minutes for the spacecraft’s signals to reach Earth, leaving mission planners in limbo to find out if everything went according to plan. Unable to intervene, they rely on a perfect symphony of pre-programmed tasks, robotic devices and controlled explosions.
Once InSight successfully lands – if it survives the perilous entry – it must be properly aligned with the sun to keep producing power and charging its batteries.
A detailed explainer on InSight lander’s mission can be read here.