NASA about to land InSight on Mars: Here are the highlights so far

NASA’s InSight spacecraft has been traveling through space for several months now and is finally set to land on Mars around noon Pacific time on Monday. Follow our live blog below as we check in with mission control and await the touchdown of the lander, which will then prepare to drill into the Red Planet to study its interior, listen for “Marsquakes” and try to figure out how often it gets battered by meteorites. 

For all the background you could want or need on InSight, watch Claire Reilly’s preview below and read my breakdown of the mission’s goals here

Now, here’s the latest on InSight’s progress as it approaches the surface of our neighboring planet. We’ll update this post frequently, so stay with us. 

11:32 a.m. PT: Mission control at NASA JPL has confirmed communication links with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and both MarCO cubesats.

11:28 a.m. PT: If you want the feeling of being there yourself, NASA has this 360-degree live view of mission control. 

11:21 a.m. PT: We’re 20 minutes out from cruise stage separation, which is when the action really starts to heat up. From there, the spacecraft will orient itself for entering the thin Martian atmosphere and then for a brief but still hot and terrifying descent.

11:15 a.m. PT: According to InSight project manager Tom Hoffman, InSight will make use of three other spacecraft to communicate with mission control on Earth. One is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, but there are also two small cubesats that were launched along with InSight in May to help relay data from InSight back to Earth. We’ll be hearing more about the two small satellites, named MarCO A and MarCO B, before and after landing.

11:11 a.m. PT: It’s a tradition, but not a superstition, to pass around peanuts at mission control leading up to a landing. NASA invites you to join in and have some peanuts at home (provided you aren’t allergic, of course.) 

11:05 a.m. PT: Coverage from mission control is now live as teams prepare for the entry, descent and landing phase of the mission (EDL).

The InSight mission and landing is being run from two control rooms: one at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and another at Lockheed Martin in suburban Denver, Colorado. The company was the prime contractor in building InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

According to Christine Szalai from the EDL team at JPL mission control: EDL software update was sent to InSight yesterday to get the spacecraft’s on-board computers all the last minute data it needs to get to the surface safely. It will be handling its own landing essentially autonomously. 

10:45 a.m. PT: NASA’s live coverage of the landing from Mission Control will start soon. Meanwhile, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is on location and taking selfies:

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