NASA’s First Robotic Lander Designed to Study Mars’ Interior Launches From California

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket is seen with NASA’s InSight spacecraft onboard, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, U.S., May 3, 2018. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. Picture taken on May 3, 2018. Courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS

An Atlas 5 rocket carrying NASA’s first robotic lander designed for studying and exploring the deep interior of Mars launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Mars InSight probe lifted off into orbit at 4:05 a.m. PDT. The lander will be released from the rocket 90 minutes after launch and begin its 301 million mile flight to Mars. It is expected to reach the Red Planet in six months and will land near its equator called the Elysium Planitia. That means the InSight probe will be just 373 miles from the landing site of NASA’s 2012 Mars rover Curiosity.

Once it has landed, the InSight probe will spend two years searching the depths of Mars’ interior for information about its form and origin, the origin of Earth and other rocky planets. The probe is also equipped to detect “marsquakes” and to measure heat flowing through the planet.

– Blair Halliday