Watch NASA’s Mars InSight landing live right here

InSight Touchdown

InSight Touchdown

Once InSight successfully lands - if it survives the perilous entry - it must be properly aligned with the sun to keep producing power and charging its batteries. You won't know if InSight's solar panels have deployed until 8:35PM at the earliest, and the first picture might take up to a day to arrive.

To reach Mars, InSight cruised 301,223,981 miles at a top speed of 6,200 mph, while being followed by two cube satellites. Any shallower, and the probe will bounce off into deep space.

Earth's success rate at Mars is just 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the US, Russia and other countries dating back to 1960.

On Sunday NASA engineers successfully tweaked the probe's trajectory, steering the spacecraft within a few miles of its targeted entry point over the Red Planet. Tricky from the lander's deck.

The terror? Well, as NASA engineers have explained, when it comes to Mars landings they often need everything to be in ideal sequence during that tiny timeframe for things to go right.

Engineers will be hoping there won't be a dust storm going on when InSight comes in to land, though the real problem is speed.

An artist's conception shows NASA's Mars InSight firing its thrusters for landing.

"The goal of InSight is nothing less than to better understand the birth of the Earth, the birth of the planet we live on, and we're going to do that by going to Mars", said Principle Investigator Bruce Banerdt. Part of this is due to the thin Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% of Earth's, so there's nothing to slow down something trying to land on the surface.

NASA has a date Monday afternoon with what it described as six and a half "minutes of terror", a high-stakes plunge across the surface of Mars that will hopefully end with a successful landing of the Mars InSight. Less than a minute after the parachute deploys, the probe will first jettison its protective heat shield and extend its three legs. During this phase, it will experience acceleration 12 times that of the Earth's gravity. At 11:47 a.m., the spacecraft will begin its screaming plunge toward the surface; friction will send temperatures on the heat shield soaring to 1500°C. The intense heating may cause a temporary radio-communications blackout. After getting that radar signal, it separated from the remaining shell and parachute, firing its descent engines known as retrorockets to help slow it down even more. Signals also could travel straight from InSight to radio telescopes in West Virginia and Germany.

But InSight will explore far beyond that, sinking a "self-hammering" probe that will dig itself into the ground to a depth of 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters), for experiments measuring how the rock in the planet's interior conducts heat. Then, it will touch down at 2:54 pm ET.

So what do we know about the InSight robot, which is armed to the teeth with scientific instruments?

Side-by-side illustrations of NASA's Curiosity rover and InSIght Mars lander.

Horne said the mission could even bring us one step closer towards answering the question of whether aliens exist somewhere out there in the universe.

"InSight is a mission to Mars, but it's much, much more than a Mars mission".

It will take two to three months for InSight's robotic arm to set the mission's instruments on the surface.

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