How to Livestream NASA's InSight Lander Arrive on Mars

No pressure, NASA.

If you’re not interested in having millions of eyes watch you execute a detailed, high-stress process in real time, you may want to pass on a job with NASA. But if you’re interested in participating as a pair of those eyeballs, NASA is serving your next opportunity on Monday, November 26: The InSight Mars lander will arrive on Mars.

After the roughly six-month journey since its launch in May, NASA’s InSight Mars Lander is slated to land on the Red Planet at 3 p.m. Eastern time Monday. And with so many ways to watch, whether via social media or NASA TV, there’s no excuse not to tune in on the NASA website right here for the momentous landing.

Landing the Lander

If the InSight landing matches the interest levels of Curiosity’s landing in 2012 — the last time NASA streamed a Mars landing — NASA engineers will have over three million pairs of eyeballs observing the stressful maneuver. No pressure.

insight landing
InSight's retro rockets must turn off the second it lands, to prevent the vehicle from toppling over.

The six minutes of terror — as Jill Prince, manager of NASA’s Engineering and Safety Center describes it — involved in InSight’s landing begins before the lander hits Mars’ atmosphere, orienting itself at a 12-degree angle, heat-shield first, at a breakneck 13,000 miles per hour. The lander will slow to 1,000 miles per hour in a matter of two minutes, while its heat shield withstands temperatures over 1,000 degrees Celsius — hot enough to melt steel. About 10 miles above the planet’s surface, InSight will release a parachute, ditch the crispy heat shield, and extend three legs for landing. Using radar, InSight will determine its orientation and distance from the ground, ejecting the back shell and parachute about a mile from the surface. Then it turns on its retro rockets for the final, cushy descent to Martian soil.

insight landing spot
Elysium Planitia, the flat plain that has been dubbed the "parking lot" of Mars

InSight will land at Elysium Planitia, which roughly translates to the plains of paradise. Scientists chose the smooth plain to allow InSight to perform its experiments in peace and quiet.

Taking the Vital Signs of Mars

After traveling 54.6 million kilometers and surviving hellish temperatures, InSight’s work finally begins. Booked for a 687-day mission, InSight aims to tap into the depths of Mars, taking its vital signs like temperature and seismology (read: Marsquakes!). From InSight’s experiments, scientists hope to understand the red planet’s formation and tectonics.

artists rendition of Cubesat
MarCOs, a type of modular, small satellite previously designed by university students, could fill in communication gaps for missions like the InSight Lander.

InSight won’t be alone during its descent, though. Two briefcase-sized spacecraft called Mars Cube One (MarCO), which launched with InSight, trail behind the lander as NASA experiments with new communication systems. If successful, the MarCOs can speed communications between Mars and Earth during critical moments such as landings.

Where to Watch

NASA set up a number of ways to watch the action. You can find one of 80 free watch parties (including in Times Square, where viewers craned their necks at the Toshiba Vision screen to watch Curiosity touch down in 2012), or to avoid the crowds and stay in your pajamas, watch from NASA TV (or its live broadcasting site, or Ustream. Seriously, there are so many ways to watch)

To get the full experience and indulge your childhood space-bound aspirations, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will also offer a look inside mission control at NASA TV Media Channel and JPL’s YouTube channel.

Once the lander has safely planted its three legs into Martian soil, stick around for a post-landing conference (which will take place no earlier than 2 p.m. Pacific) to celebrate InSight’s arrival in paradise.

Media via NASA/JPL-Caltech (1, 2, 3, 4)