Anxiety abounds at NASA as Mars landing day arrives

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft’s six-month journey to Mars is nearing its dramatic grand finale.

The InSight lander aimed for a touchdown Monday afternoon, as anxiety built among those involved in the $1 billion international effort.

InSight’s perilous descent through the Martian atmosphere has stomachs churning and nerves stretched to the max. Although an old pro at this, NASA hasn’t attempted a landing at Mars for six years.

The robotic geologist — designed to explore Mars’ mysterious insides — must go from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierces the Martian atmosphere, pops out a parachute, fires its descent engines and lands on three legs.

It’s aiming for flat red plains, hopefully low on rocks.

Earth’s overall success rate at Mars is 40 percen