Mars is hard!

Update 8:30 PM November 26, 2018 (EST)


Touchdown! Mars InSight lander reaches red planet (Alexandra Witze, Nature)
NASA’s InSight Mission Triumphantly Touches Down on Mars (Ian O’Neill, Scientific American)
InSight has landed with Updates (Emily Lakdawalla, Planetary Society)

Landing Replay (SciNews)


Original Post

If you hear a phrase like “six and a half minutes of terror,” you generally don’t expect it to be about something that will end well. This is an exception, hopefully.

In this case the phrase is being used to describe the landing of NASA’s InSight Spacecraft on the surface of Mars. It will happen this Monday (Nov. 26th), and it’s definitely the most nail-biting part of the mission.

That’s because landing on Mars isn’t just hard — it’s very hard! Here’s a great two minute explanation of why that’s the case.

That’s the big picture. Now here’s Rob Manning, Chief Engineer at JPL, explaining the specifics of what the nail-biting will be about this time.

Here’s a glossier visualization from NASA’s partner on the mission, Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin also posted this neat 360° video that shows the actual InSight spacecraft coming out of it’s shipping container in their clean room in Littleton, CO.

Assuming InSight makes it to the surface of Mars safely, it has a number of unique science objectives to carry out.

The name InSight is actually short for “Interior exploration using Seismic investigations, geodesy and heat transport,” and its name pretty much explains what it’s going to do. Here’s a video about the multiple science objectives of the mission.

NASA will be broadcasting their six and a half minutes of terror on NASA Live. Commentary will run from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the actual landing should be between 2:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. (EST).

NASA has a rundown of the events that you can watch and when on their website.
MARS InSight Mission: Watch Online (NASA)

There are also many public events, and NASA has also posted a handy map showing where you can find the one nearest to you.
MARS InSight Mission: Watch in Person (NASA)

Finally, knowing the stress an engineering team faces while landing a spacecraft on Mars does make this music video by the team that landed the Curiosity Rover more understandable 🙂

Only time will tell if the InSight team will do something equally off-the-wall.

Here’s hoping!

Find out more about Mars and see more of Mars in 360°