InSight lander on its way to Mars

VANDENBURG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft -- built by Lockheed Martin and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory -- launched early in the morning on May 5 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket and has officially begun its six-month long journey to Mars. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive on the Red Planet on November 26, 2018.

InSight, say officials, will be the first mission to look beneath the surface of Mars and examine its vital signs: It will study the planet's interior by measuring its heat output, observe its rotational variations, and use the seismic waves generated by Mars quakes and meteorite impacts to develop a map of the planet's deep interior. The resulting information will give mission scientists a better understanding of how other rocky planets, including Earth, evolved.

A Lockheed Martin team designed, built, and tested the Insight spacecraft; the team is responsible for flight operations during the cruise phase along with entry, descent, and landing in November 2018. Once the lander is actually on the Martian surface, the Denver-based mission operations team will support science collection through the life of the mission, which will last approximately two Earth years or one Martian year.

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