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All systems go for Mars InSight landing

Mars InSight lander
An artist’s conception shows the Mars Insight lander on the Red Planet’s surface, with its seismometer deployed at left and its heat-measuring “mole” deployed at right. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Illustration)

After a 300 million-mile, six-month interplanetary cruise, NASA’s Mars InSight robotic lander is heading for a plain-vanilla arrival at the Red Planet on Monday — and the team behind the mission couldn’t be more pleased.

“We’re expecting to have a very plain day on Mars for the landing, and we’re very happy about that,” said Rob Grover, the engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who’s in charge of Mars InSight’s entry, descent and landing.

That’s not only because the weather is relatively clear, but also because Mars InSight is on track to land in a no-drama region of Mars known as Elysium Planitia, which is Latin for  “Paradise Plain.”

“It may not look like paradise, but it is very flat. … It’s an excellent place for landing,” Grover said today. “As landing engineers, we really like this landing site.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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