NASA Launches Latest Mission To Mars

Solar arrays designed and manufactured by Orbital ATK-Goleta

An Atlas V rocket lifted off at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying NASA's InSight spacecraft.

NASA's InSight lander is on its way to Mars, after a successful launch on Saturday morning.

The two CubeSats will separate from the Atlas V booster after launch and travel along their own trajectories to the Red Planet.

"The scary part is when we get to Mars", said Tom Hoffman, the InSight project manager for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Forty-two years ago, the USA landed its first Mars probe on the red planet.

Most Mars rover missions are searching for water, but this rover is something of a departure from that.

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

It was the first interplanetary mission ever to depart from the US West Coast, drawing pre-dawn crowds to Vandenberg Air Force Base and rocket watchers down the California coast into Baja. If the rocket can't be safely launched within that time period, a new window will open on Sunday.

The craft is bound for a broad plain near the Martian equator, the Elysium Planitia, where the InSight lander will attempt to push a probe below the surface of Mars to gather data on its interior.

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The InSight spacecraft is due to reach Mars on November 26, wrapping up a 301-million-mile (485-million-kilometer) journey with a fiery descent into the Martian atmosphere.

The key instrument on board the spacecraft is a seismometer which will be deployed on the Martian ground by a robotic arm.

"We have studied the atmosphere, both globally and at the surface".

Lockheed Martin has built propulsive landers since the Viking missions in the 1970s and has participated in every NASA mission to Mars.

Unlike our active Earth, Mars has not been transformed by plate tectonics and other processes, he said.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is readied at a cost of $993 million and aims to expan our knowledge of conditions on the Red Planet, find out if human explorers could be sent there, and also reveal how rocky planets like the Earth formed billions of years ago.

The almost $1 billion Mars InSight probe blasted off shortly after 4 a.m. local time, roaring south down the coast to the delight of crowds gathered on beaches and church parking lots to watch in the pre-dawn darkness.

NASA normally flies from Cape Canaveral, Florida, but chose to switch coasts for InSight because of a smaller rocket backlog. But it was a marvelous sight farther south.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the Nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider.

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