Colorado Engineers Hope To Beat The Odds Again With Latest NASA Mars Mission

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Photo: Mars InSight Spacecraft
This artist's concept depicts NASA's InSight lander after it has deployed its instruments on the Martian surface.

Mars has been called a spacecraft graveyard.

Landing rovers and other probes on the Red Planet is difficult: 60 percent of missions fail, and the United States is the only country to ever succeed.

Next week, some Colorado engineers hope to defy those odds by safely landing a new NASA spacecraft called InSight. Lockheed Martin built and operates InSight. Mission Operations Program Manager Beth Buck talked to Colorado Matters about what it takes to land a spacecraft.

The problems begin with just how far away Mars is—about 91 million miles. Pinpointing a small target exactly requires a huge number of sequences.

When InSight makes its descent next Monday, Nov. 26, it will enter Mars' atmosphere at 13,000 mph. If it sticks the landing, InSight will go on to measure quakes on the planet to help determine if the core is hot or cold.

Want to watch the dramatic finale to InSight's nearly 7-month fligh? You can stream the event on NASA's website, or attend a watch party at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.