NASA successfully lifts up InSight Mars lander to explore Red Planet

NASA InSight

On May 5, Saturday, ULA’s Atlas V rocket blasted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 4:05 am Pacific time (1105 GMT) carrying the InSight spacecraft to space and thereafter the spacecraft flew on its own to Mars. On Friday, the NASA safety officers said that the foggy weather was the only technical concern ahead of the InSight launch but the usual visibility constraints might be waived and the launch could proceed.

Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander, was the space launch commander.

“This is our first interplanetary launch to Mars from Vandenberg and this launch not only garnered a lot of outside interest and attention but created many educational opportunities for the wing and our local communities,” said  Hough. “We appreciate NASA’s enthusiasm and support that helped us all gain a  better understanding of this particular mission we contributed to here at the wing. The entire launch team along with our mission partners to include United  Launch Alliance, NASA and Space and Missile Systems Center worked  diligently to ensure that this launch was safe and successful.”

NASA Tweeted: LIFTOFF! Humanity’s next mission to Mars has left the pad! @NASAInSight heads into space for a ~ 6-month journey to Mars where it will take the planet’s vital signs and help us understand how rocky planets formed. Watch:

Through this InSight mission, the Mars lander will study its interior and subsurface and this will, in turn, help the scientists understand the history of our earth as well as the history of our Solar system. The previous robotic missions to Mars concentrated mainly on the surface of the red-planet and its topography. But this InSight mission will look into the deep interior of Mars and will measure the seismic rumblings occurring inside the Red Planet.

For the first time ever, the InSight Mars lander will measure the Marsquakes occurring inside Mars. The InSight lander packs a seismometer and a burrowing heat probe and together they will pierce deep into Mars and study its subsurface and will collect information about the wobbles, the quakes, and the heat. The name of the seismometer is Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure or SEIS and it is built by French Space Agency.

The main aim of the Insight Mars lander mission is to study the Red Planet in more details so that it will help scientists to better understand the birth of our Earth. Also, the InSight Mars mission is seen as a stepping stone to NASA’s efforts to send people

As per NASA, if everything goes as per the plannings, then the InSight lander will land on the Mars on November 26. Upon arrival at Mars, the InSight Mars lander will spend a dramatic 7 minutes while decelerating from 12,500 mph (20,000 km/h) to just 5 mph (8 km/h) before the touchdown on Martian surface, as informed by Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at JPL.

The managers, who took part in the flight readiness review on Monday, inspected the heat shield and gave green signal to ground teams to continue InSight launch preparations at the launch site in California. The heat shield is considered as a very vital component of the Insight lander as it will protect the robotic lander during its entry high-speed entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Recently, a separate NASA team discovered cracks in the heat shield of the Mars 2020 mission and ordered for replacement. That is why NASA conducted safety checks of the heat shield of InSight lander and found the shield to be in perfect condition. The InSight lander is expected to land on Mars in November 2018.

According to NASA, the heat shield of Insight mission is almost half the size of the heat shield of Mars 2020 mission and has got key design differences. Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said that their heat shield is not very similar to Mars 2020 but they some of the same processes of the same designs.

“When they had that issue, we went back, re-looked at all of our test data, and made sure that the tests we did were the appropriate tests, and that they would have presumably found the same kind of issue,” said Banerdt. He informed that on Monday, the NASA engineers scrutinized the photo documentation and inspection reports to “double- and triple-check” InSight’s heat shield. Now, the InSight lander mission is ready to take off.

Why InSight Launches from California

InSight will be the first mission to another planet to leave Earth from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Missions to other planets normally launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and fly east, over water. That’s because launching towards the east adds the momentum of Earth’s eastward rotation to the launch vehicle’s own thrust. But the Atlas V-401 is powerful enough to fly south towards the sea from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Besides, Vandenberg Air Force Base is more available at this time to accommodate InSight’s five-week launch window.

The launch is only the beginning; the trip to Mars takes about six months. The journey is about 301 million miles (485 million kilometers).

No matter at what particular time and date InSight launches during its launch window, its date with Mars is set for Nov. 26, 2018.

The Atlas V is one of the biggest rockets available for interplanetary flight. This is the same type of rocket that launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005.

NASA Mars Mission Tours California

Scientists and engineers with NASA’s next mission to Mars will be touring California cities starting this month.

NASA’s InSight mission will be the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast. In preparation for its May launch, the Mars InSight Roadshow is stopping at cities along the earthquake-prone California coast to explain how the robotic lander will study Mars’ deep interior using seismology and other geophysical measurements.

The Roadshow brings family-friendly science activities, exhibits and public talks to communities throughout California, making comparisons between earthquakes and the marsquakes that InSight will try to detect. The Roadshow will also partner with local and national organizations along the way, promoting planetary science and showing the benefits of NASA earthquake data gathered by Earth-observing satellites. All the museums are members of the NASA Museum Alliance.

InSight’s launch window opens May 5 at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, northwest of Santa Barbara. InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It will be the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars, using an ultra-sensitive seismometer, a heat-flow probe and other instruments. InSight is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

What to Expect:

  • “Make Your Own Marsquake” demo, in which members of the public jump and see seismometer readings on a screen
  • Interviews with NASA scientists and engineers
  • Colorful backdrops and selfie stations
  • Models of the InSight spacecraft
  • Mars globe “cutaways” showing the interior of Mars
  • Virtual reality headsets used to see panoramas of Mars

Who to Expect:

  • Members of InSight’s mission and science teams
  • JPL’s Mars public engagement team
  • NASA Solar System Ambassadors

Tour Dates:
The following dates are confirmed. Additional dates, including ones in Southern California, will be added.

March 30-31: Redding, CA
Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Exhibit

March 30: Redding, CA
Shasta Union High School District’s David Marr Theater, Public Talk

April 13-15: Sacramento, CA
Powerhouse Science Center, Exhibit

April 18-22: San Francisco, CA (Media Day on April 18)
Exploratorium, Exhibits and Public Talks

April 27-29: San Luis Obispo, CA
San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, Exhibit

April 28: San Luis Obispo, CA
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Public Talk

May 2-3: Santa Maria, CA
Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, Exhibit

May 2: Lompoc, CA
Dick DeWees Community & Senior Center, Exhibit

May 3: Lompoc, CA
Lompoc Public Library, Public Talk

May 4: Santa Maria, CA
Allan Hancock College, Exhibit and Public Talk

May 19: Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Exhibit

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