InSight, NASA's Mars lander and the probe have been buttoned up, prepped, and attached to the Atlas V rocket that will carry the payload to the red planet. NASA is looking at a May 5 launch date at 7 am, Pacific time.
The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) probe has also been placed inside the payload fairing, reports NASA. The Atlas V's fairing will act as its heat shield as it rips through the atmosphere and reaches outer space. The fairing alone has a diameter of about 2.6 meters, notes a SpaceflightNow report. The fairings will be jettisoned about 4.5 minutes after liftoff.
If NASA is not able to launch by May 5, they have until June 8 to leave Earth or the mission will have to be pushed to 2020, notes the report.
The journey to Mars by InSight will take about seven months, during which time, the craft will deploy its fixed solar array wings. The lander weighs roughly 694 kg. The lander will reach Mars orbit on November 26 and land at the Elysium Planitia, notes the report.
The spacecraft was brought in from the Astrotech facility and placed in the Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California over the weekend. Where it was lifted and placed on top of the 57 meters tall Atlas V.
Once it reaches Mars orbit, InSight will offer humanity's first glimpse into the interior of Mars. It will look deep into the Martian surface. The probe will study marsquakes and the heat output from deep inside the planet. Using this information, NASA will be able to make a detailed map of subterranean Mars. This information could offer a look into how other rocky planets in the Solar System like Earth were formed billions of years back, says NASA.
InSight mission is a part of NASA's Discovery program and is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center. The probe and lander were tested and made ready for Mars by Lockheed Martin, notes the report.