NASA’s InSight is one day away from Mars

In just over 24 hours, NASA's InSight spacecraft will complete its seven-month journey to Mars.

The InSight spacecraft approaches Mars in this artist's concept. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The InSight spacecraft approaches Mars in this artist's concept. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

In just a day, NASA‘s InSight is going to complete its 7 months journey to Mars. Through this mission, scientists just want to study the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets.

The spacecraft have cruised 301,223,981 miles (484,773,006 km) at a top speed of 6,200 mph (10,000 kph).

Before InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, there are a few final preparations to make. At 1:47 PST (4:47 EST) engineers successfully conducted a last trajectory correction maneuver to steer the spacecraft within a few kilometers of its targeted entry point over Mars.

About two hours before hitting the atmosphere, the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) team might also upload some final tweaks to the algorithm that guides the spacecraft safely to the surface.

NASA's twin MarCO spacecraft are scheduled to make a flyby of Mars on Nov. 26. On Nov. 24, a wide-angle camera on MarCO-B took this picture of the Red Planet, which appears as small, grey dot in the lower left quadrant of the image. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s twin MarCO spacecraft are scheduled to make a flyby of Mars on Nov. 26. On Nov. 24, a wide-angle camera on MarCO-B took this picture of the Red Planet, which appears as small, grey dot in the lower left quadrant of the image.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight’s project manager said, “While most of the country was enjoying Thanksgiving with their family and friends, the InSight team was busy making the final preparations for Monday’s landing. Landing on Mars is difficult and takes a lot of personal sacrifices, such as missing the traditional Thanksgiving, but making InSight successful is well worth the extraordinary effort.”

Bruce Banerdt of JPL, InSight’s principal investigator said, “It’s taken more than a decade to bring InSight from a concept to a spacecraft approaching Mars — and even longer since I was first inspired to try to undertake this kind of mission. But even after landing, we’ll need to be patient for the science to begin.”