NASA jittery but confident about landing probe on Mars

NASA is due to land a probe on Mars for the first time in over six years on Monday and begin a mission to explore the planet deep into its core.

The probe is scheduled to begin its final descent just before 3 pm Monday, marking NASA’s first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in August 2012.

“The goal of the mission is to study evidence buried far below the surface of Mars after other probes have looked at its canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil.

“It will be like taking the planet’s pulse, temperature and reflexes.

“But first the probe, dubbed InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, has to land,’’ NASA wrote on its website.

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NASA officials said on Sunday they felt nervous about the landing but confident that it would be successful.

The landing process is expected to last about seven minutes beginning with the capsule shedding its propulsion device.

“It will then descend through the planet’s atmosphere and slow down with the help of a parachute and retrorockets before alighting.

“Among the instruments on the probe is a seismometer, which will monitor “marsquakes’’ for location, intensity and duration.

“The data collected will reveal information that scientists can use to draw conclusions about the interior of the planet,’’ it noted.

NASA scientists admitted at the news conference to being nervous about the landing.

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They, however, also said they felt confident they had thought of and fixed all the things that could possibly go wrong.

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