NASA's Mars InSight Lander to be first interplanetary launch from West Coast

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Doing this with previous missions like Viking and Pathfinder revealed that Mars does precess, gave hints that Mars is differentiated - that is, has different layers of materials in it - and even gave an estimate of the size of its core.

The Insight lander is created to drill into the surface of Mars and gather samples to help understand how the Red Planet was formed with considerable Swiss expertise, the government said in a statement Friday.

United Launch Alliance will send the probe on its way aboard an Atlas V rocket Saturday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Why is important to study the "Marsquakes" on the Red Planet?

InSight's seismometer will measure earthquakes - or more properly, "Marsquakes".

This solar-powered interplanetary emissary will help scientists better understand the formation, evolution and composition of Mars and other rocky planets - both in our solar system and beyond. But Odyssey will be in the wrong position to keep tabs on InSight, so NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed another solution. The news site says that the instrument is so sensitive it can detect Mars-quakes on the other side of the planet from where the reading is taking place. Because that part of the plate is stuck, it stores up the energy it would normally use to move, eventually catching up to the rest of the plate and releasing all the energy as seismic waves - causing shaking, according to the U.S.

InSight will also rely on legacy methodology, using a combination of a heat shield, parachute and thrusters to land safely on Mars, the same combination that has helped its predecessors execute smooth, safe landings.

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For scientists, one principal question looms over the work InSight will perform: How did Earth and Mars become so radically different, given that each was formed of the same intergalactic "stuff" about 4.5 billion years ago? These vibrations can be used to effectively map the interior and peer into the crust, mantle and core.

If conditions aren't favorable enough, the rocket scientists will likely try the launch again Sunday around 3:55 a.m. PT.

Ground crews were unable to do another inspection of InSight's 2.6-meter (8.7-foot-diameter) heat shield because the spacecraft was already in launch configuration. This could be a great show for Southern California residents. “But for those who want to sleep in on Saturday, there will be another opportunity to engage with this historic mission. "You will be able to watch a live stream of this landing while working on your holiday shopping", he added. Four hours and 25 minutes later, the launch window will open. But if Californians from Santa Maria to San Diego are willing to wake up early, they need only step outside to witness it in person: a flare of light streaking southward, en route to another world.

If any delays occur, the InSight team has set a launch window from May 5 through June 8, which will get the lander to Mars on November 26, 2018. Launch opportunities are set five minutes apart during each date's window.

Once free from the rocket's upper stage following liftoff, WALL-E and EVE will trail a few thousand miles (kilometers) behind InSight en route to Mars. The lander begins its day-to-day science activities about 30 days into the mission.

InSight is equipped with three main instruments. A number of European partners, including Frances Centre National dÉtudes Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission.

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