InSight blasts off through the fog

May 06, 2018, 05:14
InSight blasts off through the fog

The lander was launched by an Atlas V rocket taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California shortly after 4 a.m. local time.

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.

Because InSight is slightly smaller than typical Mars-bound spacecraft, United Launch Alliance was able to deploy a smaller, lighter rocket. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in G├Âttingen, Germany.

On Earth, these processes have been obscured over billions of years by earthquakes and the movement of molten rock in the mantle, he said.

"This mission will help us understand how rocky planets- those four inner planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars - how they were formed", the team leader explained.

"The heat flow probe is basically a 16-foot long thermometer that Insight will pound into the planet to take its temperature".

"I can't describe to you in words how very excited I am... to go off to Mars", said project manager Tom Hoffman from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In contrast, InSight's seismometer will be picked up with a robotic arm and placed directly on the ground. InSight will be NASA's 21 mission to the Red Planet and the 11 Mars spacecraft Lockheed Martin has built.

Despite the rather low-budget nature of the mission, since InSight is just a stationary lander rather than a fully mobile rover, there were no complications and InSight is safely on its way to Mars.

A pair of mini-spacecraft that are also launching on the rocket cost NASA US$18.5 million.

An artist's impression of the InSight lander on Mars. Mars, at half the size of Earth, churns far less: "it's a fossil planet, preserving the history of its early birth", Dr. Banerdt said. A heat-transfer probe that will burrow five metres beneath Mars' surface to measure the heat flowing out of the planet's interior.

"Ensuring that a traditionally delicate scientific instrument is capable of surviving a launch on a rocket, cruise through interplanetary space and then landing on Mars has proved to be one of the most challenging missions we have worked on - and the physics department has over 40 years' experience with sending things into space". California was always part of the plan. This was the first US interplanetary mission to launch from somewhere other than Cape Canaveral.

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

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