NASA has set the Mars Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) on a 480 million km trip to the red planet. The lander/probe was launched atop an Atlas V rocket from NASA's Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
In spite of the day being foggy and visibility from the surface quite low, the space agency was able to carry out a successful liftoff. The probe is expected to reach Mars by November, notes a release by NASA.
The rocket was made up of the payload– InSight– on top seated on the Centaur second stage which was taken into orbit by Atlas V in less than 14 minutes, notes the report after which Centaur ignited for the first time. About 79 minutes later, Centaur reportedly ignited a second time, setting up the probe's Mars trajectory. Just 93 minutes after launch, Centaur also separated from InSight, which was sent on its epic journey towards Mars. The lander will take six and a half months to reach the red planet.
"The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet's core and geological processes," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable."
Over the next six months, the spacecraft will be constantly monitored by NASA, making sure its solar arrays are in place, the ship stays on course and even make a few corrections to keep it on target till InSight lands on Mars on November 26. Once there, it is set to carry out its science missions till November 2020, says NASA.
"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 at the agency headquarters in Washington. "InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners."