NASA sets sights on May 5 launch of InSight Mars mission

InSight will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface.
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NASA's first-ever mission to study the heart of Mars is scheduled to launch Saturday, May 5. Above an artist's rendering of a rocket launching with the InSight spacecraft.

NASA's first-ever mission to study the heart of Mars is scheduled to launch Saturday, May 5. Above 
an artist's rendering of a rocket launching with the InSight spacecraft.

NASA's next mission to Mars, Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), is scheduled to launch Saturday, May 5, on a first-ever mission to study the heart of Mars.

InSight, which is the first planetary mission to take off from the West Coast, is targeted to launch at 7.05 am EDT (4.05 am PDT) from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, NASA said in a statement.

Illustration of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight).

Illustration of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight).

InSight will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth, the space agency said. It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior. The findings of Mars’ formation will help better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created, NASA noted.

Launching on the same rocket as InSight is a separate NASA technology experiment known as Mars Cube One (MarCO). These two mini-spacecraft are the first test of miniaturised CubeSat technology in deep space. They are designed to test new communications and navigation capabilities for future missions and may aid InSight communications.

InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver.