The NASA InSight spacecraft launches onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas-V rocket on May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Photo: VCG)
The InSight spacecraft will complete its seven-month journey to Mars, traveling about 485 million kilometers at a top speed of 10,000 kph, according to NASA.
"We've studied Mars from orbit and from the surface since 1965, learning about its weather, atmosphere, geology and surface chemistry," said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
"Now we finally will explore inside Mars and deepen our understanding of our terrestrial neighbor as NASA prepares to send human explorers deeper into the solar system," said Glaze.
Before the spacecraft enters the Martian atmosphere, engineers still need to conduct a last trajectory correction maneuver to steer the spacecraft toward its entry point over Mars.
About two hours before hitting the atmosphere, they might upload some final tweaks to the algorithm that guides the spacecraft safely to the surface.
InSight blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5. It is NASA's first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012.
The spacecraft will hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kph and slows down to 8 kph before its three legs touch down on Martian soil. The deceleration will happen in just under seven minutes, according to NASA.
"Once InSight is settled on the Red Planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars' deep interior: information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home," said Glaze.