Watch NASA's InSight land on Mars tomorrow starting at 2PM ET

Watch NASA's InSight land on Mars tomorrow starting at 2PM ET

The journey of six months and 300 million miles (482 million kilometres) comes to a precarious grand finale Monday afternoon.

Landing a spacecraft and that too achieving a soft landing for InSight, on a planet that is on average about 12.5 light minutes away, means NASA will have to keep a sharp watch on all the data related to InSight's health and trajectory, says a report by the space agency. - NASA is counting down to a nail-biting touchdown on November 26, 2018, of the $993 million Mars InSight, the first spacecraft to listen for quakes and study the inner workings of another rocky planet.

NASA is quick to note the paltry success rate-only 40 percent-for Mars missions; the U.S.is so far the only nation that has successfully landed on Mars.

On Monday, InSight will follow a similar trajectory, entering the Martian atmosphere at an altitude of 125km, and relying on a combination of heat shield, parachutes, and on-board thrusters to mitigate heating and slow its velocity from almost 20,000 km/hour to about 10 km/h-a factor of 2,000-before its three spindly landing legs touch the surface of Mars.

By contrast, just one of Nasa's previous eight attempts have failed.

Unlike Phoenix, NASA said it expects InSight to survive nearly two Earth years on the surface.

The spacecraft will be landing on Elysium Planitia, a large volcanic plain stretching north of Mars' equator.

NASA’s In Sight lander to study interior of Mars
NASA’s In Sight lander to study interior of Mars

InSight and MarCO flight controllers will monitor the spacecraft's entry, descent and landing (EDL) from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The site is roughly 373 miles (600 km) from the 2012 landing spot of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity, the last spacecraft sent to the Red Planet by NASA.

"Landing on Mars is hard".

Concentrating on planetary building blocks, InSight has no life-detecting capability.

Viewing parties are planned coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as in France, where InSight's seismometer was designed and built. NASA is providing a special 360-degree online broadcast from inside the control center. The giant NASDAQ screen in New York's Times Square will start broadcasting NASA Television an hour before InSight's scheduled 3 p.m. EST touchdown; so will the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

A carefully orchestrated sequence - already fully preprogrammed on board the spacecraft - takes place over the next several minutes, coined "six and a half minutes of terror". The geologic record of Mars is preserved far better than that of earth, which has active tectonic plates and heat convection from its core, dynamic processes that tend to obliterate physical evidence from eons past. A minute later, the spacecraft will make a turn to orient itself for atmospheric entry. The cubesats are a NASA experiment to determine methods of speedier signal transmissions to and from Mars.

Hoffman, who is father to a two- and four-year-old, added that has "not been sleeping that great", though he said that might because of his rambunctious toddlers.

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