The US space agency's latest probe, InSight, is scheduled to land on the planet at 3pm EST (8pm United Kingdom time), having travelled for six months and 300 million miles.
The robotic geologist named InSight must go from 12,300 miles per hour (19,800 kilometres) 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.
According to the Principal Investigator for the instrument, Tilman Spohn, the instrument will tell scientists if Mars and Earth formed from the same "stuff", giving a clue to the how the rocky bodies in the solar system evolved.
But the US has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past three decades.
Should the diminutive spacecraft prove themselves viable, NASA boffins have said the tech could have applications elsewhere in the solar system and at the very least allow for a "bring your own relay" communications option during the critical touchdown phases.
Adopting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) engineers have taken the design of the Phoenix lander and adapted it for InSight.
No experiments have ever been moved robotically from the spacecraft to the actual Martian surface. One of the big questions is what made Earth so hospitable to life.
In addition, two mini-spacecraft have been following InSight. "And we're looking to take humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s".
Concentrating on planetary building blocks, InSight has no life-detecting capability. NASA's Mars 2020 mission, for instance, will collect rocks for eventual return that could hold evidence of ancient life. Nasa is the only space agency to have pulled off a landing on the planet, most recently in 2012 when the Curiosity rover was winched to the surface by a "sky crane".
Viewing parties are planned coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as in France, where InSight's seismometer was designed and built.
On Monday, InSight will follow a similar trajectory, entering the Martian atmosphere at an altitude of 125km, and relying on a combination of heat shield, parachutes, and on-board thrusters to mitigate heating and slow its velocity from almost 20,000 km/hour to about 10 km/h-a factor of 2,000-before its three spindly landing legs touch the surface of Mars. Unlike InSight, the MarCO spacecraft keep on going past Mars into space.
But the real action, at least on Earth, will unfold at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home to InSight's flight control team. You can access NASA Television here or watch the broadcast below. Thus without MarCO, nervous engineers on Earth could be faced with over an hour's wait for news from InSight. This means there will be some delay between what is happening on the Red Planet and what we see on Earth. Radio signals may be briefly lost.
- The first image from the surface of Mars is expected at 2004 GMT.
"Just to warn anybody who's sitting near me. In some sense, it's like a time machine - it's measuring the structure of Mars that was put in place 4.5 billion years ago", Banerdt said.