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December 15, 2018

NASA’s InSight robotic lander set to arrive on Mars Monday

November 26, 2018
This NASA rendering depicts the InSight lander deploying its instruments on the Martian surface. NASA’s three-legged, one-armed geologist will make its grand entrance through the rose-tinted Martian skies on Monday. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

We’ll soon be one step closer to understanding how things work on Mars, the moon, Mercury, Venus and even Earth — if all goes well.

A NASA robotic spacecraft called the InSight is set to arrive on Mars at around 3 p.m. on Monday after a 300 million mile journey that kicked off on May 5 from an air force base northwest of Los Angeles.

The lander is expected to blaze into the Mars atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour and then slow to just five miles per hour before gently touching down on the surface of the fourth planet from the sun, NASA tweeted Monday morning.

This NASA illustration shows the InSight lander about to arrive on the surface of Mars.
This NASA illustration shows the InSight lander about to arrive on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

The hope is that, once grounded, InSight will open a window into Mars and the other three planets in the inner Solar System — Mercury, Venus and Earth, along with the Earth’s moon.

“Its instruments peer deeper than ever into the Martian subsurface, seeking the signatures of the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner Solar System, more than four billion years ago,” reads a NASA web page dedicated to the InSight Lander. “InSight’s findings are expected to shed light on the formation of Mars, Earth, and even rocky exoplanets.”

Among other cool features, the InSight boasts a robotic arm that’s about 5 feet, 9 inches long. The arm will be able to lift a seismometer — an instrument that measures ground motions caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and more — from the deck and position them on the surface of Mars. A camera on the arm will be able to produce color 3D views of the surface and sensors can measure weather.

The entire 800-pound lander is just under 20 feet long when solar panels are deployed and it’s about 5 feet wide. InSight’s height can reach 33 to 43 inches.

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