NASA Launches Insight Mars Lander

NASA Launches Insight Mars Lander

NASA sends Mars InSight rocketing toward the Red Planet. NASA’s InSight Mission to Mars launched from Vandenberg Air Force Station in California, making it the first mission to another planet to launch from the west coast. InSight is scheduled to land on Mars on November 26, 2018 to study the interior of the planet and search for seismic activity. It will partially do this by drilling into the planets surface.

Interesting titbit, initially this was due to launch earlier but following a persistent vacuum failure in the main scientific instrument, the launch window was missed, and the spacecraft was returned to Lockheed Martin’s facility in Denver, Colorado, for storage. NASA officials decided in March 2016 to spend an estimated US$150 million to delay launching  to May 2018. This would allow time for the seismometer issue to be fixed, although it increased the cost from the previous US$675 million to a total of $830 million.

The Insight Mars Lander ‘s primary objective is to study the earliest evolutionary history of the processes that shaped Mars. By studying the size, thickness, density and overall structure of Mars’ core, mantle and crust as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet’s interior, it will provide a glimpse into the evolutionary processes of all of the rocky planets in the inner Solar System. The rocky inner planets share a common ancestry that begins with a process called accretion.  As the body increases in size, its interior heats up and evolves to become a terrestrial planet, containing a core, mantle and crust. Despite this common ancestry, each of the terrestrial planets is later shaped and molded through a poorly understood process called differentiation.  Its mission’s goal is to improve understanding of this process and, by extension, terrestrial evolution, by measuring the planetary building blocks shaped by differentiation: a terrestrial planet’s core, mantle and crust.

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