Probe hurtling towards Mars to study planet's interior

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

"Keeping in mind our ambitious goal to eventually send humans to the surface of the Moon and then Mars, I know that our incredible science and engineering team - the only in the world to have successfully landed spacecraft on the Martian surface - will do everything they can to successfully land InSight on the Red Planet".

NASA's Mars-bound InSight spacecraft is on track for a soft touchdown on the surface of the Red Planet on November 26, the U.S. space agency said.

If all goes according to plan, InSight will streak into the pink Martian sky almost 24 hours later at 12,000 miles per hour (19,310 kilometers per hour).

The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars' deep interior.

Only around four in 10 missions ever sent to the Red Planet by any space agency have been successful, and the U.S. is the only nation whose missions have survived landings.

The smaller, 880-pound (360 kg) InSight - its name is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - marks the 21st US -launched Martian exploration including the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. And by bouncing radio signals back and forth with Earth, it will tell us whether Mars wobbles on its orbit (ultimately telling us about the composition of the planet's core).

It will drill deeper beneath the Martian surface than ever before to find out about Marsquakes and the interior heat of the planet. The lander will spend 24 months - about one Martian year - using seismic monitoring and underground drilling to gather clues on how Mars formed and, by extension, the origins of Earth and other rocky planets of the inner solar system more than 4 billion years ago.

"We can't joystick the landing, so we have to rely on the commands we pre-program into the spacecraft".

Scientists consider Mars a tantalizing time capsule because it retains much of its early history. While the landing won't be captured on video, NASA plans to broadcast live views of mission control and animations detailing each step of InSight's descent.



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