NASA’s robotic InSight spacecraft, carrying a pair of European-built science instruments, successfully landed Monday on a broad, flat equatorial Martian plain named Elysium Planitia. Touchdown was confirmed at 2:54 p.m. EST (1954 GMT) to begin a science mission focused on studying the deep interior of Mars.
After a six-month voyage from Earth, NASA’s InSight Mars lander, streaking through space at at some 12,300 mph, will slam into the thin martian atmosphere Monday afternoon to begin a nail-biting six-and-a-half-minute descent to the surface, kicking off a billion-dollar mission to probe the red planet’s hidden interior.
A layer of fog intruding on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California kept nearby observers from seeing any sign of Saturday’s predawn launch of an Atlas 5 rocket carrying a robotic NASA probe to Mars. The only images of the Atlas 5’s fiery takeoff came from remote cameras placed at the launch pad, or from distant viewing points away from the poor visibility.