The InSight lander will attempt to reach the surface of Mars on Monday.

Enlarge / The InSight lander will attempt to reach the surface of Mars on Monday. (credit: NASA)

NASA launched the InSight probe to Mars back in early May, and now it’s time for the most critical part of the mission—entry, descent, and landing onto the surface of the red planet. The probe will attempt a landing on Monday, Nov. 26, at around 3pm ET (20:00 UTC).

No landing on Mars is easy. Only about 40 percent of the landers and rovers sent to the red planet during the last five decades have ever made it safely down to the surface, and of the international space agencies that have tried, only NASA has succeeded in making a soft landing on Mars.

For InSight, however, mission managers are slightly more confident than usual. This is because the powered descent mode that InSight will employ has been tested before, a decade ago with the Phoenix lander. That spacecraft landed at the north pole of Mars, studied the planet’s water cycle, and even observed snowfall.

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