NASA InSight: Everything You Need to Know About Mars Lander and Its Mission

NASA's InSight spacecraft will touchdown on the surface of Mars on November 26. The lander was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California on May 5, 2018 and has been hurtling through space towards our closest neighbour ever since.

As the space agency counts down the days until its arrival, here's everything you need to know about the lander and its mission.

It's full name is Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport—InSight for short. The mission aims to study the interior of Mars by drilling down and taking samples of the rock and soil deep beneath the surface. By studying the planet's crust, mantle and core, scientists will be able to get a better understanding of its tectonic activity and meteorite impacts. It will also help us learn more about how the rocky planets in the inner solar system formed four billion years ago.

NASA InSight Landing
he landing site for InSight, in relation to landing sites for seven previous missions, is shown on a topographic map of Mars. I NASA/JPL-Caltech

It will land at a site called Elysium Planitia. This is a largely nondescript area of Mars devoid of any major geological features. "If it were an ice cream, it would be vanilla," InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said in a statement. This location was chosen because of its undramatic terrain—its job will be to drill down so having a safe location that can be drilled is key. It also needed to be bright and warm so the lander's solar cells can be powered over its two year mission

InSight is the first NASA lander to reach the Red Planet since Curiosity touched down in 2012. Landing on Mars is extremely complicated—only around 40 percent of missions sent to Mars are successful. The U.S. is the only country to have missions that have survived a Mars landing. The technology used to land InSight is based on the Phoenix spacecraft, which touched down on the Red Planet in 2008.

Mars InSight
An artist illustration of the InSight lander on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The landing is scheduled to take place on November 26 at approximately 3PM ET. NASA will be broadcasting the event live online via its TV channel which can be accessed here. It will also put a livestream of the touchdown on its social media channels. Coverage will start at 2PM ET, with live landing commentary and a feed from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The mission will last for two years. InSight will start surface operations from the moment it lands and data will start being sent back to NASA after about 10 weeks. After six weeks, all of InSight's instruments should have been deployed.