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The dramatic arrival of the $993 million spacecraft - created to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet's inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape - marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in NASA's history.

With only one failed touchdown, it's an enviable record.

The plan called for the spacecraft to go from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierced the Martian atmosphere and settled on the surface.

InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas.

It was hard to find a way to top Bobak Ferdowsi, aka NASA's "Mohawk Guy" during the Curiosity landing in 2012, but they damn well tried. No other country has managed to set and operate a spacecraft on the dusty surface.

Landing on Mars is no easy feat, not even for a small stationary robot like InSight.

Congratulations flooded into the space agency following the success, including from Mike Pence, the United States vice president, who celebrated the "incredible milestone" of the country's eighth successful landing on Mars. The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars' deep interior. Directly measuring the flow of this heat in modern Mars will help alleviate some huge uncertainties in planetary formation models. However, we can likely expect to see better-quality images of the Red Planet in the future, as InSight's mission progresses. Together, those instruments will take measurements of Mars' vital signs, like its pulse, temperature and reflexes - which translates to internal activity like seismology and the planet's wobble as the sun and its moons tug on Mars.

Watch as the lander makes historic touchdown on Mars
InSight will also send a "tone beacon" when it touches down on Mars , and again seven minutes later, but much more loudly. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's perspective and monitor the environment.


Settling In InSight's first few days on the Red Planet won't be as eventful as the probe's nerve-wracking descent and landing.

"I'll tell you, it was intense, and you could feel the emotion", Bridenstine told Gay Yee Hill, a spokesperson for JPL, during the landing webcast.

Ultimately, these measurements won't just inform scientists about Mars, but about rocky planets in general.

"We can now look forward to the deployment of the instrument and the data that will start to arrive in the new year, to improve our understanding of how the planet formed".

It is known as the Red Planet because of its red appearance. Only six-and-a-half harrowing minutes later, after ejecting its heatshield, deploying a supersonic parachute and firing retrorockets, its speed had dramatically slowed to a jogging pace after traversing the 130 kilometers between Mars's upper atmosphere and the planet's arid surface.

'It will also be useful in allowing us to understand how many planets in other star systems there might be which could have the right conditions to support life, ' she said.


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