The highly-anticipated InSight mission to Mars is all set for the scheduled launch on May 5, as NASA officials have given their approval for tomorrow’s 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT or 11:05 GMT) liftoff from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, reports Space.com.
In a pre-launch press briefing that took place yesterday, Tim Dunn, InSight launch director with NASA’s Launch Services Program, announced that the Mars lander is “go for launch” and that all organizations have greenlighted the mission for its targeted launch window on Saturday.
“We did a flight readiness review on Monday, we did a mission dress rehearsal on Tuesday. The entire launch team, all agencies — we are prime and ready. And just this morning, we did the launch readiness review,” Dunn said at the press briefing.
The singular downside to the big event is the dense marine fog layer forecast to hit California tomorrow. According to Kristina Williams, the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg, there is an 80 percent chance that people won’t be able to see the InSight Mars lander take off from its Vandenberg launch pad.
“There is an 80 percent chance that we will have visibility that low and you will not be able to see the launch.”
However, the launch team anticipates that all the other mandatory range safety and user constraints will have a zero percent probability of violation, Williams stated.
The pioneering InSight mission (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is the first one aiming to investigate Mars’ deep interior and to study what goes one below the surface of the Red Planet in terms of tectonic activity and temperature. This is also the first interplanetary mission to ever take off from the West Coast of the U.S.
Yesterday NASA released a video of the mission’s countdown, which you can watch below and which details all the preparations needed to make tomorrow’s liftoff successful.
The unprecedented California launch has been made possible by the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will take the InSight Mars lander into space, Bruce Banerdt, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, said in the video.
The InSight Mars lander is expected to reach the Red Planet on November 26, after a 301-million-mile (485 million kilometers) journey that will take 205 days to complete. The lander will be equipped with a seismometer intended for the detection of Marsquakes and a self-hammering probe destined to monitor the heat flow coming from the planet’s interior.
Accompanying the InSight lander are two MarCO satellites dubbed “Wall-E” and “Eva,” tasked with keeping up communications and reporting on the mission’s progress.