NASA's latest mission to Mars tracks the InSight spacecraft

Blanche Robertson
May 6, 2018

A robotic geologist armed with a hammer and quake monitor is rocketing towards Mars after the successful launch of the craft on Saturday.

NASA successfully launched their InSight lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning.

The Mars InSight probe took off from Vandenberg air force base in California, making it the first US interplanetary spacecraft to be launched over the Pacific.

It will take the spacecraft more than six months to get to Mars.

InSight will also deploy a heat flow probe 16 feet underground. It will also attempt to make the first measurements of marsquakes, using a high-tech seismometer placed directly on the Martian surface.

"That's the real payoff of this whole mission and that's still lying ahead of us", said the mission's chief scientist, Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We're going back to Mars", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

"For me it was really about the science, just being part of the crowd, learning more about geology I'm kind of a geology aficionado but I don't know about the geology of Mars so it was really an opportunity to learn more", said Miriam Lamb-Perrone who watched the launch from the Lompoc Airport.

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NASA is warning onlookers that only 40% of the missions ever sent to Mars have been successful.

Hitching a ride aboard the same rocket that launches InSight will be a pair of miniature satellites called CubeSats, which will fly to Mars on their own paths behind the lander in a first deep-space test of that technology.

Joe notes that many fundamental facts about the Earth's interior were unknown to scientists as recently as 100 years ago.

"Our stations at New Norcia and Malargüe will allow NASA to keep in touch with InSight during its critically important "launch and early operations" phase, when the spacecraft systems are first turned on and checked", explains Daniel Firre, the Agency's ESA-NASA cross-support service manager.

InSight's primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, created to detect the slightest vibrations from "marsquakes" around the planet. Unlike our active Earth, Mars hasn't been transformed by plate tectonics and other processes, he noted.

Over the course of two Earth years - or one Martian year - scientists expect InSight's three main experiments to provide a true 3-D image of Mars. The lander will drill down into the crust of Mars to gather information.

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