NASA employees celebrate Mars landing with impressive handshake

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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 proved to be Mike Pence, the US vice president, calling to congratulate the team. In less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, InSight slowed from 12,300 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour before it gently landed on the surface of Mars, according to NASA. InSight is now sitting on Elysium Planitia, a plot of land near the Gale crater, near the equator, and has beamed back its first snap to show it's alive.

A NASA spacecraft has landed on Mars to explore the planet's interior.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine receives a congratulatory call from Vice President Mike Pence after receiving confirmation of the successful landing of the agency's InSight spacecraft on Mars on November 26, 2018 at the Mission Support Area of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It was intense, and you could feel the emotion", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the NASA landing Livestream about the landing success.

A new space robot now calls Mars "home".

"Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration", said InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt. InSight will spend two years investigating the interior where the building blocks below the planet's surface that recorded its history.

The MarCO-A cubesat also indirectly performed science during the flyby as its radio signals were occluded by the planet as it passed behind Mars.

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InSight has no life-detecting capability, however.

Ultimately, these measurements won't just inform scientists about Mars, but about rocky planets in general. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 metres) down to measure the planet's internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes. Meanwhile, mission scientists will photograph what can be seen from the lander's perspective and monitor the environment.

Mars once had flowing rivers and lakes, but the deltas and lakebeds are now dry.

If the instrument establishes that Mars has the remains of a liquid core it will suggest the planet once had a magnetic field that could have shielded early life - before dramatically and mysteriously weakening.

InSight will be very different from the Mars missions that have come before it, but it's going to fill a crucial role in humanity's quest to understand how Mars formed and whether it has ever played host to life. "InSight will study the interior of Mars and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars".

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