World Bulletin / News Desk
NASA on Saturday successfully launched a spacecraft that will study the interior of Mars.
Data collected by the lander will likely be valuable for charting future human colonization of Earth’s planetary neighbor.
NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will help scientists understand how often the planet is rocked by earthquakes and how the temperature changes underneath Mars’ surface. The lander will drill down into the crust of Mars to gather information.
The InSight lander was launched by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 1105 GMT in Southern California. Launching before dawn local time, the rocket quickly disappeared into fog before heading out above the Earth’s atmosphere.
"This is a big day,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who took over leadership of the space agency just last month, in a call with mission scientists. “We're going back to Mars. This is an extraordinary mission with a whole host of firsts.”
If the 483-million kilometer (300-million mile) trip to Mars goes smoothly, the InSight probe will arrive in the red planet in about six months and join five other NASA spacecraft studying Mars.
As part of its two-year mission, the 358-kilogram (790-pound) lander will burrow instruments several meters deep into the Martian crust to check the “vital signs” of the planet, according to NASA. It will be the first time scientists collect direct evidence from deep below the Martian surface.
“We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science,” Tom Hoffman, the project manager for the InSight mission, said in a statement.
The probe is expected to reach Mars on Nov. 26 and conduct experiments until November 2020.
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