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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.

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