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The touchdown is scheduled for about 3 p.m.

Here's what you need to know about the landmark mission. Having launched on May 5, 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as it enters the atmosphere of Mars, InSight will be traveling at 14,100 miles per hour. A minute later, InSight will orient itself for entry before barreling into the thin atmosphere of the red planet, starting at 14:47 EST and travelling at 12,300mph.

"Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the Solar System".

The stationary probe, launched from California in May, will then pause for 16 minutes for the dust to settle, literally, around the landing site before its disc-shaped solar arrays unfurl to provide power. Tricky from the lander's deck. You can watch a live feed of the control room above, beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST, with commentary including interviews with NASA engineers and scientists. After that, NASA hopes to use InSight to decode the internal structure of Mars, among other mysteries.

The landing team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif worked through the weekend monitoring weather reports from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). But due to the communication delay with the spacecraft, by the time NASA mission controllers get a signal that it has entered Mars' atmosphere, InSight will already have landed.

The U.S., however, has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades, not counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown.

The very first image returned by NASA InSight, from Elysium Planitia, post-landing.

The sharpest view of Mars ever taken from Earth Nasa  Getty Images
The sharpest view of Mars ever taken from Earth Nasa Getty Images

InSight's perilous descent through the Martian atmosphere has stomachs churning and nerves stretched to the max. It reached a complete stop on the ground 6 1/2 minutes later. This intense heat could cause temporary dropouts in radio signals. On Sol 44, InSight will deploy its heat probe, and six days later the lander will begin hammering its probe 5 meters down into the Martian surface. After getting that radar signal, it will separate from the remaining shell and parachute, firing its descent engines known as retrorockets to help slow it down even more. In addition to the burrowing subsurface probe, InSight also carries seismometers that will measure "marsquakes" - tiny vibrations triggered by planetary activity under the planet's crust. I'm going to control myself as well as I can until we get the first notification of successful landing.

NASA is attempting to land a spacecraft on the surface of Mars Monday to study the interior of the red planet. "We have no ability to actually, kind of, fly the lander to the surface".

The InSight mission cost about $814 million, including the launch costs; France and Germany invested about $180 million.

The first image from the surface of Mars is expected at 2004 GMT. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's perspective and monitor the environment. InSight will also send a "tone beacon" when it touches down on Mars, and again seven minutes later, but much more loudly. Orbiting satellites have also revealed important puzzle pieces about Mars' climate makeup and orbit, and have even detected what are thought to be flows of salty liquid water. As the surface pushes up on the lander's legs, a trigger sensor will be depressed shutting down the rockets.

The tone is important, and is one of a sequence that engineers on Earth will be listening for as InSight passes each landing milestone.

Zurbuchen described InSight as "unique" because the waist-high lander contains instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.

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