InSight’s journey of more than 480 million kilometres started on the tip of a mighty Atlas V-401 rocket which blasted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on 5 May.
It weighs more than 330 tons when fully stacked and stands 57m high – the equivalent of a 19-storey building.
Its target was Elysium Planitia – a vast, fairly flat expanse just north of Mars’ equator.
But it took complex calculations to get the landing 100% right and ensure the craft entered Mars’ atmosphere at exactly the right spot. “Our accuracy is comparable to shooting a basketball from downtown Los Angeles [on the US west coast] and hitting nothing but net in a basketball hoop – that’s moving at about two feet (0,6m) a second – in New York City [on the east coast],” explains Fernando Abilleira, a Nasa navigator.