On Saturday May 5th, an interplanetary space mission will launch from America’s West Coast. This is the first time a space mission will launch from California. NASA space missions have usually launched from Texas or Florida in the past. “If you live in Southern California and the weather is right, you’ll probably have a better view of the launch than I will,” said Tom Hoffman, project manager for NASA’s InSight mission. The rocket launch will be visible far south as Tijuana, Mexico. This mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program for highly focused science missions that ask critical questions in solar system science.
The InSight missions aim is to discover how a rocky planets form in our solar system. InSight is short for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport”. The long form name gives away hints to the types of instruments on board the mission. With the help of this equipment, the mission will investigate the interior structure and composition of Mars. The mission will also determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts. The lander’s instruments include a seismometers to detect quakes and a probe that will monitor the flow of heat below the planet’s surface.
Past missions to Mars have only investigated the surface of the Red Planet. Rovers sent to Mars have examined features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. With Insight, researchers will be able to learn about Mars activity and composition far below the surface.
NASA’s InSight spacecraft will be destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in Mars’ northern hemisphere. If all goes according to plan the mission will launch Saturday, May 5th (4:05 a.m. PT/7:05 a.m. ET) and is expected to make its landing on Mars on November 26th, 2018.
The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida provides launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider of the Atlas 5 rocket. A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission.
Additional information on viewing the launch in person is at: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/mission/timeline/launch/watch-in-person/.
Live televised coverage of the launch will be available at: https://www.nasa.gov/live.