Published: Sat, May 05, 2018
Science | By

West Coast Mars launch set for Saturday

West Coast Mars launch set for Saturday

NASA InSight Mars lander will discover the mystery of formation of rocky planets. Instead, it will stay in place once landed, and explore the planet that way. "And that is precisely what we need".

I am excited about weather instruments mounted on the lander deck. The modest-size lander (no rover on this one) will use a seismometer and a burrowing heat probe to study the interior of Mars, including the movement of its tectonic plates and how heat flows beneath the surface. A little over an hour later, at about 11:30 p.m. PDT (May 5, 2:30 a.m. EDT), the 260-foot-tall (80-meter) Mobile Service Tower - a structure that has been protecting the Atlas V launch vehicle and its InSight payload during their vertical assembly - will begin a 20-minute long, 250-foot (about 80-meter) roll away from the Atlas. However, the Mars and Earth were formed through same processes over 4 billion years ago. With time, stresses build up and are suddenly released when vast stretches of rock slip past one another along geological fault lines, sending tremors through the planet. But scientists are hoping for more besides. The InSight will send a hammer drill to penetrate beneath the Mars surface. Even the minuscule uplift of the ground caused by the gravitational pull of Mars's moon, Phobos, should register on its instruments.

InSight, for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

"Mars is still a pretty mysterious planet", Banerdt said. These will orbit Mars, observing InSight's progress on landing and reporting back to Nasa's mission control. The beauty of a CubeSat relay system is that it could provide descent information at planets and other cosmic stop-offs lacking established communications.

If everything goes pretty well, we can expect the Lander to land on the Mars on November 26, 2018. And as cubesats and larger missions push deeper into space, NASA sees more private-sector companies getting involved. The planet is never an easy destination and only about 40% of missions from any space agency have been successful. InSight will launch from the U.S. Air Force Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3E.

A pair of briefcase-size satellites will launch aboard InSight, break free after liftoff, then follow the spacecraft for six months all the way to Mars.

"The most important piece about MarCO as a tech demo is that it is a precursor to so many other missions and opportunities", Klesh says. "So we'll be able to compare and understand how terrestrial planets are put together at the very early stage of the solar system's development", said Green.

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