Today (May 5) NASA launched its historic InSight mission. The American space agency launched the spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) is currently on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars. The historic probe will study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

The launch also marks the first interplanetary mission ever to depart from the West Coast. NASA usually launches from Cape Canaveral but decided to switch to California for InSight to take advantage of a shorter flight backlog.

NASA has also attached two suitcase-size spacecraft, to the Atlas V 401 rocket, designed to orbit Mars.

First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Seventy-nine minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory towards the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur 14 minutes later – 93 minutes after launch – and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 8:41 a.m. EDT (5:41 PDT).

InSight’s trip will last approximately seven months. After its arrival, the spacecraft will settle in the Elysium Planitia region of the red planet in late November. The probe will be joining five other NASA spacecraft operating on and above Mars.

InSight’s Two-Year Mission

Hence, the nearly $1 billion Mars InSight probe will start its two-year mission. Thus, trying to understand what makes the Red Planet like Earth and help advance the search for new homes for humans.

The lander will dig deeper into Mars than ever before — nearly 16 feet or 5 meters — to take the planet’s temperature. It will also attempt to make the first measurements of marsquakes, using a seismometer placed directly on the Martian surface.

“This mission will probe the interior of another terrestrial planet, giving us an idea of the size of the core, the mantle, the crust and our ability then to compare that with the Earth,” said NASA’s chief scientist Jim Green. “This is of fundamental importance to understand the origin of our solar system and how it became the way it is today.”

InSight’s mission aims ultimately to answer age-old questions — Are we alone in the universe? Is there potential for life on a planet that’s not Earth? — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video tweeted Saturday by the space agency.

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Thumbnail image: NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet.
Credits: NASA