Insight Is On Its Way To Mars

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The lander is in contact with mission control as it heads off on its six-month trip to the Red Planet.

A composite image showing the moment of ignition on the Atlas 5 rocket carrying InSight to Mars, and a NASA-generated visualisation of the rocket in flight. The two briefcase-sized Cubesats too have been deployed.

Share this article: An artist's rendering of the InSight lander and its equipment on Mars.

NASA hasn't put a spacecraft down on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012. The Centaur MECO 2 (Main Engine Cut off) has begun. During the descent InSight will travel from a speed of 12,500 miles per hour down to 5 miles per hour within 6 1/2 minutes. It is equivalent to one year on Mars.

By early 2019, scientists hope InSight's instruments will be reporting back everything from how often the planet quakes to how warm the soil is, thanks to a probe created to burrow almost 20 feet below ground.

The latest seismometer experiment is France-led.

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Nasa today launched a rocket headed to Mars with the Insight probe on board, in a mission to measure quakes on the red planet. The second instrument is a self-hammering probe that will bore down 10-16 feet below the planet's surface.

Unlike Mars, Earth has active tectonic plates and convection that carries heat from the core outward, moving around the mantle layer. InSight has officially begun its six-month long journey to the Red Planet and is scheduled to arrive November 26, 2018.

"We were fortunate to have a great turnout at our Lompoc Airport for this historic Insight Mission to Mars launch", said Lompoc city spokeswoman Samantha Scroggin. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is providing the Atlas V launch vehicle. InSight is readying for booster separation.

Aboard Atlas was the spacecraft dubbed InSight, for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, which sports solar arrays crafted by Orbital ATK-Goleta. Scientists will compare the data InSight collects with data from Earth and possibly discover if the two planets are made out of the same elements. Even if the probe reaches Mars, there's no guarantee of success: Missions to the Red Planet have just a 40% success rate, NASA said. "So, it will be placed down and it will burrow down five meters below the surface and carry with it a long strip of temperature sensors".

British government Sam Gyimah said: "The UK is playing an important role in this exciting mission to unlock the deepest secrets of our nearest neighbor in the solar system". JPL also funded an additional $18.5 million to test two shoebox-sized "cubesats" that can act like cellphone towers, relaying information from the lander back to Earth.

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