NASA launches InSight spacecraft to Mars to dig down deep

A robotic geologist armed with a hammer and quake monitor rocketed toward Mars on Saturday, aiming to land on the red planet and explore its mysterious insides.

According to Times of Israel, in a twist, NASA launched the Mars InSight lander from California rather than Florida’s Cape Canaveral. It was the first interplanetary mission ever to depart from the West Coast, drawing pre-dawn crowds to fog-socked Vandenberg Air Force Base and rocket watchers down the California coast into Baja.

InSight will dig deeper into Mars than ever before � nearly 16 feet, or 5 meters � to take the planet’s temperature. It will also attempt to make the first measurements of marsquakes, using a high-tech seismometer placed directly on the Martian surface.

The Atlas V rocket also gave a lift to a pair of mini test satellites, or CubeSats, meant to trail InSight all the way to Mars and then serve as a potential communication link. They popped off the rocket’s upper stage in hot pursuit of InSight, as elated launch controllers applauded and shook hands following the morning’s success.

The $1 billion mission involves scientists from the US, France, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe.

NASA hasn’t put a spacecraft down on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012. The US, in fact, is the only country to successfully land and operate a spacecraft at Mars. It’s tough, complicated stuff. Only about 40 percent of all missions to Mars from all countries � orbiters and landers alike � have proven successful over the decades.

Source: AZERTAC