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The three-legged InSight spacecraft reached the surface after going from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines to slow down.

InSight will spend about two Earth years checking out the red planet, some 140 million miles away from Earth.

After quite the journey, NASA's InSight has landed on Mars.

Mission control engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, burst into cheers and applause as soon as the lander arrived on Martian soil. The seismic waves marsquakes produce will be used by InSight to create a 3-D picture of Mars's interior-but they can also be used to study meteorites thudding into the surface. The on-board instruments just require a stable, flat surface so NASA chose Elysium Planitia, also referred to as "the biggest parking lot on Mars". "That's a key capability right now with the InSight lander".

Squeee, first photo from InSight!

Over the next two years, we will learn a lot more about Mars and hopefully find answers to such questions as if there are any signs of past life or if Mars now has any liquid water.

Mars_InSight
Sight during landing. Image credit NASA

The InSight lander touched down on Mars just before 8pm GMT, surviving the so-called "seven minutes of terror" - a tricky landing phase for the robotic probe, travelling at 13,200mph through the planet's thin atmosphere which provides little friction to slow down.

It is early winter on Mars when InSight landed, with surface temperatures on Monday estimated to be 18 degrees Fahrenheit, before dropping to minus 140 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. The space agency said that in the interim the spacecraft had opened its solar panels, which allowed it to recharge its batteries for the mission.

Altogether, InSight's instruments and observations aim to reveal key information about how warm and geologically active Mars is.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a self-hammering mole that can burrow 16 feet (five meters) into the surface - further than any instrument before - to measure heat flow. Immediately after planting, InSight made the surface of Mars, and later transferred to Earth and a "selfie". 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.

The answers are believed to have something to do with the as-yet unexplained absence, since Mars' ancient past, of either a magnetic field or tectonic activity, said NASA's chief scientist James Green.

Shortly after touchdown, the lander relayed an image of the Martian surface.

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