(CNN)At 3 p.m. ET on Monday, November 26, a group of researchers will be really sweating. The NASA InSight spacecraft will try to land on Mars.
After six months of flight, the lander component of the probe will detach itself from the cruise stage and head into the atmosphere. The lander component initially looks a fair bit like the re-entry capsule used in the 1960s and 1970s for the Apollo moon missions -- sort of conical, with a smooth and flat bottom. That bottom is a crucial heat shield that is designed to protect the probe as it passes through the thin Martian atmosphere.
The landing is a devilishly difficult feat. The landing capsule has to batter its way through the atmosphere. It will fly through the Martian air at an initial speed of 12,300 mph, and it must hit the atmosphere at an angle of precisely 12 degrees. Any shallower, and the probe will bounce off into deep space. Any steeper, and the probe will burn itself up in a spectacular and fiery death. The probe will first touch the atmosphere six minutes and 45 seconds before landing. During this phase, it will experience acceleration 12 times that of the Earth's gravity. Were the probe a 150-pound human, during the flaming descent, it would weigh nearly a ton.
@wolfe63said It will fly through the Martian air at an initial speed of 12,300 mph, . During this phase, it will experience acceleration 12 times that of the Earth's gravity.
Sure, but you can't tell the difference, So the landing was successful so far. Yea!
Also have first image of surface, dust cover is transparent and shows dust but that will be removed hopefully and better images will come in of the surface.
So far the craft is responding exactly as ordered.