U.S. spacecraft successfully touches down on Mars

This illustration shows NASA's In Sight lander about to touch down on the surface of Mars

ASSOCIATED PRESS This illustration shows NASA's In Sight lander about to touch down on the surface of Mars

Vid NASA's InSight lander today successfully fell through the atmosphere of Mars to touchdown in seemingly one piece on the planet's surface. Ultimately, by giving Mars an internal examination we'll be able to compare the Red Planet's composition with Earth's, greatly improving our understanding of how planets in our solar system-and even exoplanets orbiting other stars-actually form. First, however, both the craft and its sensitive cargo of instruments must survive a slowdown from 12,300 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour in only seven minutes.

InSight should land on a sandy area of Mars, where it will take readings on the heat of the core, up to five metres below the surface.

A hard landing: InSight set down on terra firma just before 3 p.m. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where the building blocks below the planet's surface that recorded its history. Once deployed on the surface, the HP3 self-penetrating heat flow probe-aptly nicknamed "the mole" -will pound the ground tens of thousands of times to eventually burrow as much as 5 meters below the surface. Up to now, the success rate at the red planet was only 40 per cent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the US, Russia and other spacefaring countries since 1960. InSight is equipped with two cameras: the one that produced this picture is on the main body of the spacecraft and captures fish-eye images, which maximizes the field of vision for close-up work.

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A life-size model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, is shown at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. As it turned out, that trial mission succeeded with flying colors, also conveying InSight's first photograph of its new home on Mars.

NASA scientists have seen a lot of evidence that Mars has quakes - known as marsquakes.

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It may even shed light on a little-understood process which allowed the Sun's "solar wind" to strip Mars of its atmosphere - a disaster which may also have contributed to the disappearance of the vast bodies of water which once flooded the Martian surface.

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York's Times Square.

The principal investigator on the French seismometer, Philippe Lognonne, said he was "relieved and very happy" at the outcome. Unlike earthquakes, marsquakes are a effect of a cooling and shrinking world, says Hoffman, and hopes are high that there will be many marsquakes for InSight to detect.

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