NASA Launches InSight Lander Toward Mars

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NASA’s ambitious interplanetary spacecraft, InSight recorded a perfect, on-time lift-off from California’s Vanderberg Air Force station. Insight was carried by an Atlas 5 rocket and put into a temporary parking orbit around Earth.

After an hour, the 360-kg lander was put on a direct path towards Mars for 6-months journey. The expected landing of the InSight on Mars surface is around November 26th which almost covers 300 million miles. It is two-year mission costing $1 Billion.

With heavy fog covering Vandenberg Air Force Base, Los Angeles, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5’s first stage engine thundered to life. It was the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast and the rocket climbed away to the south over the Pacific Ocean. If everything goes well, the Insight will reach Mars in 205 days, touching down on a broad plain known as Elysium Palitia.

Since 1964, the U.S. has now launched 23 robotic spacecraft to the Mars at a cost of more than $20 billion in an evolving campaign to map out the red planet. InSight is the eighth lander NASA has sent to Mars and the first mission dedicated solely to learning more about the planet’s interior in an attempt to glean clues about its formation.

When compared to Earth, Mars is a smaller planet and it is less active than the Earth. This makes Insight easy to study the surface of the Red Planet, monitor the marsquakes, probe the temperature of the core and map the planet’s hidden interior.

InSight is equipped with two primary instruments: the Seismic Experiment Interior Structure – SEIS – seismometer (a heart of the InSight mission which allows to see deep into the planet), and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe – HP3 costing $180 million. This solar and battery-powered lander is designed to operate for 26 Earth months, or 1 year on Mars.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine said, “This is a big day, we’re going back to Mars, we did it from the West Coast, which is a first ever. We’re going to look deep inside the interior of Mars, we’re going to create a 3D image of what’s going on inside of Mars” and further added “This is an extraordinary mission with a whole host of firsts. It’s important for our country, it’s also important for the world. It really establishes American leadership in a lot of ways. … Congratulations to everyone involved.”