NASA’s InSight lander has been soaring through space for nearly seven months now with the sole purpose of landing on Mars. Today is its big day–when we’ll finally see if it can successfully enter the Martian planet’s atmosphere and begin its real journey.
The device will begin to enter the planet’s atmosphere around noon today, hurdling at a rate of over 12,000 miles per hour. The hope is that its protective covering will keep it safe from heat friction and sandstorms as the InSight comes to screeching halt while landing.
This is the first time in six years that NASA has attempted to put one of its devices on Mars, so it’s a monumental occasion. And it should be noted that failure is an option. In fact, only 40% of the world’s attempts to explore Mars since 1960 have been successful. Although the Associated Press notes that the U.S. has pretty good track record of seven successful landings and only one failure.
The InSight is planning to go where no space robot has gone before: underneath Mars. The spacecraft will land on a (hopefully) flat surface and then try to bore a probe about 16 feet underground, as a way to measure the heat inside the planet’s core, among other things. Meanwhile, the InSight will also place a seismometer on Mars’s surface, which has never before been successfully done.
According to NASA, the lander is expected to touch land at 3 p.m. EST today. The agency will have coverage of the event all day, including live commentary on its public channel.
For now, all we can do is watch and hope it lands safely. Learn more about the lander and its mission here.