NASA's Mars InSight Mission Launches for Six-Month Trip

NASA's Mars InSight Mission Launches for Six-Month Trip

The Atlas V rocket took off on Saturday just after 12pm United Kingdom time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

InSight was blasted off alongside two small "cubesats" satellites called Mars Cube One - they are also due to reach Mars in November but will stay above the planet. "We want to measure the fundamental parameters of the deep interior", said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at a May 3 briefing. "The spacecraft will be traveling at a Mars relative velocity of approximately 12,500 miles per hour, so we need precise entry flight path angle and orientation of the InSight spacecraft to be able to execute a successful propulsive landing and get the lander to a safe speed of ~5 miles per hour before landing softly on the Red Planet".

The mammoth rocket will release the probe 90 minutes after launch.

NASA spent $650.4 million on the InSight mission, part of its Discovery program of relatively low-priced planetary science missions, as well as $163.4 million for the Atlas 5 launch.

The 790-pound (358-kilogram) probe will then begin its two-year science mission to seek the "fingerprints" of the processes that formed the rocky planets of the solar system.

The InSight probe was carried into orbit from a launch site in California at around 4:05 a.m. local time.

Once InSight arrives, it will set up its instruments, carefully placing a seismometer on the red planet's surface and drilling a temperature probe nearly 16 feet down.

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Share this article: An artist's rendering of the InSight lander and its equipment on Mars. But it does have a 7.8-foot-long (2.4-meter) robotic arm.

Of course, InSight needs to first land successfully. InSight will explore more of Mars than has ever been studied before. Scientists will compare the data InSight collects with data from Earth and possibly discover if the two planets are made out of the same elements.

"InSight, for seismologists, will really be a piece of history, a new page of history", said the Paris Institute of Earth Physics' Philippe Lognonne, lead scientist of the InSight seismometer. California was always part of the plan.

Nasa normally launches from Cape Canaveral, but chose to switch to California for InSight to take advantage of a shorter flight backlog.

Research by university scientists in Britain to study Marsquakes on the Red Planet was given a boost Saturday with the lift off of a space rocket from California. The rocket's bright orange flame was visible for some time as it arced upward across the dark sky west of greater Los Angeles. - NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video tweeted Saturday by the space agency.

"I can't think of a better way to start my day!"

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