NASA successfully launches Mars InSight lander

NASA successfully launches Mars InSight lander

NASA successfully launches Mars InSight lander

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket with NASA's InSight spacecraft onboard at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, 05-05-2018.

NASA spent $650.4 million on the InSight mission, part of its Discovery program of relatively low-priced planetary science missions, as well as $163.4 million for the Atlas 5 launch. The InSight lander will now make a six-month journey to Mars, where it will study the planet's subsurface.

After landing on Mars in late November, the explorer will use its seismometer to measure quakes caused by volcanic activity and severe temperature differences on the planet's surface.

At 1:04 p.m. May 19, a pair of twin satellites, NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO), will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket that also will carry five more Iridium Next commercial communication satellites into orbit from Space Launch Complex-4.

"I've been to several rocket launches, but it is a whole different vibe when there is something you've been working on for years sitting in the nose cone waiting to get hurled beyond our atmosphere", said Bruce Banerdt, the mission's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Unlike Mars, Earth has active tectonic plates and convection that carries heat from the core outward, moving around the mantle layer.

In a twist, Nasa launched the Mars InSight lander from California rather than Florida's Cape Canaveral.

InSight is expected to reach Mars around Thanksgiving of this year, hitting the thin Martian atmosphere at about 13,200 miles per hour, and then slowing down through friction, a parachute, and then right before reaching the surface, with thrusters.

Named after the characters in the 2008 animated movie, the small satellites WALL-E and EVE hitched a ride on the Atlas V rocket that launched early Saturday from California with the Mars InSight lander.

"This is of fundamental importance to understand the origin of our solar system and how it became the way it is today".

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InSight will land on Mars Nov. 26 at Elysium Planitia, a site near the Martian equator. Once down, it will stay put, using a mechanical arm to place the science instruments on the surface.

The InSight is also equipped with two radio antennas that will help scientists track where, exactly, Mars is in relation to the earth, to study how the planet shifts on its poles as it rotates.

"InSight, for seismologists, will really be a piece of history, a new page of history", said the Paris Institute of Earth Physics' Philippe Lognonne, lead scientist of the InSight seismometer.

It was a marvellous sight, though, farther south.

"I can't think of a better way to start my day!"

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