InSight will spend more than six months cruising toward Mars with plans for landing at noon November 26. Note that in contrast to other missions, InSight will not be able to move on the surface of the planet, because it is stationary device.
NASA's Mars InSight lander has launched on top of a ULA Atlas V rocket and is a historic launch in several ways. A recent competition yielded two winning proposals: a CubeSat to explore the moon's far side from lunar orbit, and another to probe a permanently shadowed crater near the moon's south pole, also from lunar orbit.
"Though the six-month journey is called the "quiet cruise phase" there are many things our team must do to make sure we are ready for InSight's arrival at Mars", said Tim Linn, InSight deputy program manager and entry, descent and landing manager. The 1,530-lb (694-kg) spacecraft presently consists of a cruise stage, a lander, and an aeroshell to protect the lander during its hypersonic passage through the thin Marian atmosphere. It is equivalent to one year on Mars. In addition, the polar angle allowed for more launch windows over a five-week period.
InSight is a mission to study the interior structure of Mars, including the size and composition of its crust, mantle and core.
If all goes well, the three-legged InSight will descend by parachute and engine firings onto a flat equatorial region of Mars - believed to be free of big, potentially unsafe rocks - on November 26.
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Lockheed Martin has built propulsive landers since the Viking missions in the 1970s and has participated in every NASA mission to Mars. The second stage engine has cut off. NASA has confirmed the main engine cutoff (MECO). InSight is readying for booster separation.
InSight (which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) will dig deeper into Mars than ever before - 5 metres - to take the planet's temperature.
This data will then be used to compare with Earth's to help explain how the planets were formed 4.5bn years ago.
InSight will be the first probe, which will focus its research primarily on the interior of the red planet.
InSight is one of two NASA missions set to launch from Vandenberg this month.
Once InSight arrives, it will set up its instruments, carefully placing a seismometer on the red planet's surface and drilling a temperature probe nearly 16 feet down. Pulling from this extensive experience, the InSight spacecraft incorporates advanced technology and lessons learned from previous Mars missions. "We can put that into our models, extrapolate to the Earth and understand how the Earth formed four and a half billion years ago".