NASA, JPL Hope to Make History with West Coast Interplanetary Launch

  • NASA, JPL Hope to Make History with West Coast Interplanetary Launch

NASA, JPL Hope to Make History with West Coast Interplanetary Launch

On Saturday, NASA will launch its latest and greatest mission to Mars.

"The seismometer is so sensitive it can detect vibrations as small as a hydrogen atom", Barrett said. They won't stop at Mars, just fly past.

This artist's concept from August 2015 depicts NASA's InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars.

Like the Mars landers that came before, including the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, InSight will be launched by a United Launch Alliance rocket.

While the probe will use seismic waves generated by marsquakes in order to develop a map of the Mars' deep interior, it will also study how all rocky planets are formed, including Earth and its Moon as well as monitor the flow of heat present in the planet's interior.

Landing on Mars with a spacecraft that's not much bigger than a couple of office desks is "a hugely hard task, and every time we do it, we're on pins and needles", Banerdt said. Among them is Exploration Mission 1, the first flight test of NASA's planned platform for the human exploration of deep space.

InSight is also planning to measure the size of the planet's innermost core.

In that instance, both satellites were able to manoeuvre themselves to their intended orbits, but NASA will not have quite the same flexibility with a spacecraft bound for Mars.

Originally scheduled for 2016, the discovery of several flaws in one of the instruments forced NASA to postpone the mission.

MarCO will be the first cubesats to travel beyond low Earth orbit-well beyond.

Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator on the mission at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said he expects InSight to record at least a dozen, but perhaps 100, marsquakes of magnitude 3.5 or stronger over the two year mission.

The launch pattern from the West Coast requires the rocket to burn a bit more fuel to deliver the craft on its proper trajectory. The InSight mission is slated to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this Saturday (May 5) and will begin looking for tectonic activity on Mars as early as November.

HP3 will take Mars' temperature as it burrows down almost 16 feet below the surface - deeper than any previous arms, scoops, drills or probes before it.

"The lander uses cutting edge instruments, to delve deep beneath the surface and seek the fingerprints of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets". "The further out you go, it gets harder and harder to send a big spacecraft".

If the sky is clear, NASA says, the launch will be visible to more than 10 million Californians.

"We have a do-no-harm philosophy for secondary payloads", Messer said.