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NASA's InSight spacecraft is about to blast off for Mars

05 May 2018, 01:57 | Francis Delgado

NASA's Mars Insight Lander Is All Ready for Get, Set and Go!

Orbital ATK employees wearing protective clothing

The launch window for the InSight mission - short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - will open at 4:05 a.m. Saturday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. Vandenberg Air Force Base is forecasted to see partly cloudy skies through the morning hours.

The launch pattern from the West Coast requires the rocket to burn a bit more fuel to deliver the craft on its proper trajectory.

InSight will land in Elysium Planitia, a plain just north of the Martian equator.

Up until now, previous missions to the Red Planet have concentrated on its exterior by studying martian volcanoes, canyons, rocks and soil.

But if deteriorating weather conditions were to halt the launch, NASA is prepared to blast off anywhere between now and June 8. "There are no technical issues being worked at this time". Among those still to come are the official start of the countdown to launch - which comes on Friday, May 4 at 10:14 a.m. PDT (Saturday, May 5, 1:14 a.m. EDT). MarCO is two CubeSats that will travel to the Red Planet along with Insight to test key technologies en route to Mars. This is also the first interplanetary mission to ever take off from the West Coast of the U.S. Information will be divided into two types: indication of major events (for example, deployment of the parachute and the final landing), as well as the gauges including the temperature data and the estimated altitude during descent through the atmosphere.

Originally scheduled for 2016, the discovery of several flaws in one of the instruments forced NASA to postpone the mission. One mystery is why Mars, a planet less dense and half the width of Earth, did not grow any larger.

Getting a Mars mission flying requires a great many milestones. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic.

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"It's a lander, not a rover, and it will deploy a variety of instruments down onto the ground". The six-wheeled robot is expected to arrive on Mars in 2021.

Like Earthquakes on Earth, Mars is suspected of experiencing its own quakes which emanate from either tectonic activity or from meteorites striking the planet's surface.

Private space company SpaceX is also working to reach Mars.

Like Earth, Mars wobbles a little as it rotates around its axis; by precisely tracking the location of the lander with two radio antennas, RISE will be able to measure the slightest changes in the landers location to reveal how Mars is moving in its orbit.

SpaceX plans to use its upcoming BFR rocket system for unmanned cargo missions to Mars by 2022.

A second mission, carrying cargo and crew, is targeted for 2024, with the primary objectives of building a propellant depot and preparing for future crew flights, according to SpaceX.

Fox News' Chris Ciaccia contributed to the article.



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