How to land on Mars

Check the weather
3 hours before landing

NASA artist portrait / Martin Kornmesser

After six months of traveling from Earth, the InSight probe follows a precise trajectory to land on the red planet.

Approximately three hours before landing, mission sailors will have one last chance to adjust InSight timing or alignment to avoid a dangerous Martian dust storm.

Separate from the stage of the cruise
13 minutes before landing

Before InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, the spacecraft will separate from its solar panel cruise stage and switch to battery power.

Light and communications take 8 minutes and 7 seconds to reach Mars from Earth. We will not know if the landing of InSight was a success or a failure until it was finished.

Enter the atmosphere
6 minutes before landing

InSight will enter the thin Martian atmosphere at a speed of about 12,300 miles at the hour.

The spacecraft must hit at a 12-degree angle to survive. Too stiff and InSight will burn; too shallow and it will jump through the atmosphere and back into space.

Deploy a parachute
3 minutes, 7 seconds before landing

InSight will slow down quickly by tearing the Martian atmosphere, then launch a supersonic parachute about eleven kilometers above the surface.

Leave the heat shield
2 minutes, 52 seconds before landing

An explosion of pyrotechnics will release the InSight heat shield, recently marked by the heat of the entrance. The shield is thicker than previous missions, in case InSight would be forced down under thick dust.

Extend the legs
2 minutes, 42 seconds before landing

Ten seconds later, more fireworks will extend the three damping legs of the spacecraft. After that, InSight will activate its ground-based radar.

Falling from the back shell
45 seconds before landing

Less than a minute before landing, InSight will fall and gain some distance from its parachute and shell by falling freely.

44 seconds before landing

The lander will fire 12 small rockets to slow down and move away from the falling parachute.

Go down slowly
15 seconds before landing

After stopping its horizontal motion, InSight starts a smooth descent of about eight feet per second.

Land on Mars

NASA is waiting to receive confirmation of its landing on Monday around 14:53. Eastern Time.

If InSight lands successfully, it will be the first landing on Mars since the complex landing of the Curiosity mobile in 2012.

Expected by InSight

landing zone

Expected by InSight

landing zone

Expected by InSight

landing zone

Expected by InSight

landing zone

InSight is targeting a vast equatorial plain called Elysium Planitia.

The plain could give boring images, but it is considered an ideal landing point for a mission to study the interior of the planet.

Deployment of solar panels
20 minutes after landing

After having waited several minutes for the dust raised by the landing to disperse, InSight will deploy its two solar panels.

The LG will then spend a few days checking their systems and taking images of the landing site.

Go to work
A few days after the landing

In the days and weeks following the landing, InSight will take stock of the surrounding area, accurately measure and photograph the area around the undercarriage, and then use its robotic arm to carefully place three instruments on the surface. Martian.

An extremely accurate seismometer placed under a protective dome will listen to earthquakes and a burr thermal probe will measure the interior temperatures of the planet.

To learn more about what InSight hopes to learn about Mars, take a look at the mission below or explore InSight and Mars in Augmented Reality.

Recent landings on Mars

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory / University of Arizona

The Curiosity rover landed in August 2012 at Gale Crater, about 340 km south of the planned InSight landing site.

The curiosity is visible in the form of a small dot in the dark landing area above, where the shiny surface dust was washed away during landing.

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory / University of Arizona

InSight's design is largely based on Phoenix's successful mission, which landed near the North Martian Pole in 2008.

An orbiting spacecraft photographed Phoenix and his parachute descending in front of crater Heimdal, above.

Unsuccessful landings

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory / University of Arizona

In 2016, the Lander Schiaparelli crashed on Mars after contradictory estimates of its altitude caused it to lose its heat shield too early.

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory / University of Arizona

And in 2003, the Beagle 2 LG lander successfully landed, but could not communicate with the Earth after failing to deploy all of its solar panels.

Beagle 2 is the small white dot in the center of the image above.

Six months in March

Mars has an elliptical orbit that brings it closer to Earth every two years. The launch of InSight has been programmed in this window to reduce the travel time.

Launch InSight

May 5, 2018

Launch InSight

May 5, 2018

Launch InSight

May 5, 2018

Mars was at its closest point to Earth at the end of July and will return again in 2020, when the next rover (and helicopter) is launched.

Mars' InSight journey was relatively fast, compared to other missions launched in 2018. It will take seven years before the BepiColombo probe reaches Mercury and seven hours for the Parker solar probe to hit the sun.

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Sources: NASA; Jet propulsion laboratory; Caltech. Updated time estimates of the Planetary Society, although the exact times depend on the landing conditions. Images from NASA / JPL-Caltech unless otherwise noted.

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