NASA just launched a new mission to Mars that will greatly enhance our understand of the Red Planet.
In the early morning hours on Saturday in southern California, an Atlas V-401 rocket blasted into the sky from Vandenberg Air Force Base to the cheers of onlookers as it carried a very important and even historic payload. NASA’s InSight mission will send a robotic Mars lander to study the interior and the subsurface of the Red Planet, deepening our understanding of Mars and helping to pave the way for a future manned mission.
The lander is expected to arrive on Mars on Nov. 26, and it will burrow a heat probe at the site and deploy a seismometer. It was built by Lockheed Martin and had been planned for a March 2016 launch, but an instrument failure forced the mission to be delayed by a couple of years.
It was originally called the Geophysical Monitoring Station, or GEMS, but NASA changed the name to InSight in 2012. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission, which costs $425 million not including the launch vehicle.
“The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”