How to watch Monday's InSight landing on Mars from anywhere

Everything, from the angle at which the probe first hits the martian atmosphere, to the exact time its three legs pop free, ready to absorb the shock of landing, must go right - and in the right order.

It is NASA's first attempt to land on Mars in six years, and all those involved are understandably anxious.

InSight lander - the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - is the U.S. space agency's first craft dedicated to peer beneath Mars' surface and monitor its interior.

The reason real-time control isn't possible is because it takes a radio signal approximately eight minutes to travel from Earth to Mars. Although 70+ robotic spacecraft, orbiters, landers, and rovers have made the trip to Mars, 40 percent of them have been lost during landing. "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".

After the landing, scientists will take it slow and steady with the lander and its scientific instruments.

The InSight is planning to go where no space robot has gone before: underneath Mars.

But the real action, at least on Earth, will unfold at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home to InSight's flight control team. On InSight's sixteenth day on Mars, Sol 16, the lander is scheduled to deploy its seismometer, and on Sol 38 it will deploy a wind and thermal shield to protect the instrument from external noise sources. If InSight comes into too shallow, the spacecraft could skip off the thin atmosphere, and an entry angle that is too steep would produce too much thermal heating.

The goal of the Mars Lander is to study the interior of Mars, and take its pulse and temperature.

NASA's InSight Lander is close to making its historic touchdown on Mars after an epic journey of just over 300 million miles. That means slowing down from 12,300 miles per hour as it enters the top of the Martian atmosphere - to a complete stop on the ground six and a half minutes later.

This information will tell us a lot about how Mars formed, which, in turn, will add to the information of how rocky planets, including our own Earth, typically develop.

The unmanned spacecraft launched almost seven months ago, and is NASA's first to attempt to touch down on Earth's neighboring planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012. This is because the powered descent mode that InSight will employ has been tested before, a decade ago with the Phoenix lander.

Even though they can't do anything to help InSight as it descends, mission managers should be able to watch its progress.

InSight is landing in what seems to bea very boring part of Mars, known as Elysium Planitia. The InSight spacecraft was built near Denver by Lockheed Martin. Once InSight phones home from the Martian surface, though, he expects to behave much like his three young grandsons did at Thanksgiving dinner, running around like insane and screaming.

Meanwhile, a radio transmitter will send signals back to Earth, tracking Mars' subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet's core and possibly whether it remains molten.

InSight will also deploy a seismometer to listen for marsquakes (like earthquakes, but Martian-style) and for impacts of meteors on the planet.

  • Essie Rivera