NASA's InSight spacecraft is about to blast off for Mars

Muriel Hammond
May 5, 2018

InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is due to land just above the northern side of the Martian equator on 26 November, the website says.

When the InSight lander arrives at Mars, it will dig deeper than ever before to take the planet's temperature. NASA InSight Mars lander will discover the mystery of formation of rocky planets. The the only country to have successfully landed and operated spacecraft on Mars, including the first time in 1976 (Vikings) and most recently in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.

"The lander uses cutting edge instruments, to delve deep beneath the surface and seek the fingerprints of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets". Only Earth has been studied in any detail.

"It's really a science of understanding the early solar system ... how planets formed", Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator from JPL, said on Thursday during a news briefing. Mars doesn't have plate tectonics. Seismic activity on Mars is thought to come from cracks forming in the crust, with the planet's interior energy expected to be less intense than Earth's. If a meteor impacts Mars during the mission's two year primary mission, SEIS could detect it as it rings the planet like a bell.

The trip to Mars will take almost seven months and cover roughly 301 million miles. With that information, scientists can monitor how much Mars wobbles on its axis, movement that sheds light on the size of the planet's core and whether it is liquid or solid.

RISE isn't a separate instrument but a clever use of the same equipment the spacecraft uses to communicate with Earth. It is believed that Mars has undergone drastic changes and has evolved from a water-rich world in a rocky desert - and astronomers want to understand what led to such changes.

The goal of the ambitious undertaking is to excavate deep into the jagged surface of Mars and stay what makes the planet tick underground.

InSight will become the first interplanetary spacecraft to be launched from the West Coast.

Because the seismometer is so sensitive, scientists installed a weather station of sorts on the Insight lander.

The mission will provide scientists with a wealth of data. Vandenberg Air Force Base is forecasted to see partly cloudy skies through the morning hours.

The official start of the countdown begins today at 10:14 a.m PDT (13.05 p.m EDT/17.05 p.m GMT) but starting tomorrow from 4:05 a.m PDT (7:05 a.m EDT/11.05 a.m GMT), a two hour launch window will open every day - should the first attempt at take-off not go quite according to plan - that is available until 8 June.

NASA teams have conducted a successful Launch Readiness Review, the agency's Launch Services Program tweeted Friday.

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