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But just getting those instruments in place will take several months, as NASA scientists will first need to assess the health of the spacecraft and the area where it landed.

After waiting in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive from space, flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in that the three-legged InSight spacecraft had successfully touched down.

The dramatic arrival of the $993 million spacecraft - created to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet´s inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape - marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in NASA´s history.

There was no immediate word on whether the lander was in good working order.

It was Nasa's - indeed, humanity's - eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years.

A image transmitted from Mars by the In Sight lander is seen on a computer screen at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Monday Nov. 26 2018 in Pasadena Calif

NASA says InSight's two-year mission will be to "study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed". In fact, it will be two to three months before InSight's robotic arm even sets its instruments on the martian surface, according to NASA. It landed less than 400 miles (600 kilometers) from NASA's Curiosity rover, which until Monday was the youngest working robot in town.

"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries", Tom Hoffman, NASA's InSight project manager here at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement.

"He watched the whole thing, he is absolutely ecstatic about our programme, as you're aware he's the chairman of the National Space Council, and he's been a keen advocate of what we do and to have him call within seconds of mission success is incredible".

Staff tensely wait in silence, before an announcement is made, saying: "Touchdown confirmed".

The question of whether life ever existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.

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"This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye", he said.

But on Tuesday afternoon, we may get the first image back from InSight of its new home on the surface of Mars.

InSight robotically guided itself through the landing, outside of a few last minute tweaks by the entry, descent and landing team to the algorithm that guides the lander to the surface.

InSight is being followed to Mars by two mini-spacecraft comprising NASA's Mars Cube One (MarCO), the first deep-space mission for CubeSats, which attempt to relay data from InSight as it enters the planet's atmosphere and lands.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a self-hammering mole that can burrow 16 feet (five meters) into the surface - further than any instrument before - to measure heat flow.

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He said that it was hard to tell from the first photo whether there were any slopes nearby, but that it appeared he got the flat, smooth "parking lot" he was hoping for.

InSight will not be looking for life on Mars.

He said it was a little odd to realize that by the time word arrived, history had already been made eight minutes earlier because of the lag in communication between Mars and Earth. NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life. The oldest geological history of Earth has been erased by later processes, such as plate tectonics and erosion, which are less active on Mars.

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