NASA spacecraft to probe interior of Mars

In addition to collecting data on quakes, the lander will look at heat flow from the Martian interior and probe the way the planet wobbles.
By Delila James | May 08, 2018
NASA launched its Mars InSight spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California just after 4 a.m. local time Saturday in a mission to probe the deep interior of the Red Planet.

During the spacecraft's six-month voyage to Mars, engineers will monitor its science instruments and trajectory.

The InSight lander aboard the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will investigate quakes and other geological processes beneath Mars' surface.

"Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, in a space agency statement. "In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality."

In addition to collecting data on quakes, the lander will look at heat flow from the Martian interior and probe the way the planet wobbles.

"InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. "InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners."

While earlier missions to the Red Planet have examined its surface features, none have investigated deep into the interior for evidence about its earliest evolution.

"InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet," said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

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