NASA's InSight Mars mission, intended to study seismic activity (er, "Marsquakes") on the Red Planet, successfully took off from California Saturday morning, NPR News is reporting. The craft is now hurtling through space and will arrive on the planet's surface in six months.
Over the decades, NASA and other space agencies have sent craft up to Mars to study its atmosphere, its soil, its moons, and such. But no mission has ever searched the planet for seismic activity - until now. Speaking to NPR News this week, Insight's lead scientist William "Bruce" Banerdt explained that this mission will do just that.
"This will give us the ability to go back in time, into that early period when Mars was very active, and really understand how the planet started forming its layers."The mission will try to accomplish this in two ways.
First, the InSight - which is a lander, not a rover, meaning that it will stay in one place, unlike Curiosity - will measure if the planet "wobbles" during a quake. If that happens, it's an indication that there is movement below the surface of the planet, just like there is on Earth.
Secondly, the mission will deploy a heat flow probe - a 16-foot long thermometer that Insight will insert into the planet to take its temperature.
I'm on my own now. Separation from the upper stage of my #AtlasV rocket is confirmed. This marks the beginning of my 6-month journey to #Mars. See launch blog: https://t.co/50dnoQSHB8 pic.twitter.com/aQjGnvUvAcThe $813-million mission is intended to get a glimpse into Mars' ancient history.
— NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) May 5, 2018
"This will give us the ability to go back in time, into that early period when Mars was very active, and really understand how the planet started forming its layers."Joining InSight for its ride to Mars are two small satellites, each the size of a briefcase, called "CubeSats." Those devices will - hopefully - monitor InSight's descent and landing when the craft arrives in six months.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, this particular Mars mission is different from other recent Mars missions - and indeed, just about all of the space explorations in the past few years. That's because very few people are likely to have seen the spacecraft's launch. Most American spacecraft - NASA or private - take off from Kennedy Space Center, where millions of people live within a hundred-mile radius. This one, however, took off from Vandenberg Air Base in California, far away from any populated areas. What's more, it was foggy this morning in southern California, limiting visibility even further.
InSight will land on Mars on November 26, 2018.