The first leg of NASA’s next mission to Mars was successfully completed today with the launch of “InSight” which is meant to analyze the surface of the red planet. The probe vehicle, launched today using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will land on Mars in November.
InSight – short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – is unlike the previous NASA missions to Mars. While the previously shuttled Mars rovers were meant to move and study the planet’s topography, InSight will be stationary and will dig into the surface of Mars to draw information about the chemicals that make it up and possibly unravel some previously unknown facts.
LIFTOFF! Humanity’s next mission to Mars has left the pad! @NASAInSight heads into space for a ~6 month journey to Mars where it will take the planet’s vital signs and help us understand how rocky planets formed. Watch: https://t.co/SA1B0Dglms pic.twitter.com/wBqFc47L5p
— NASA (@NASA) May 5, 2018
NASA, as per principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, knows much about the planet’s topography as well as its gravitational and magnetic fields. While earlier missions have studied the atmosphere and the surface from a superficial view, studying geology will help them peer into the history of Mars’ formation and sustenance.
InSight will help scientists draw an accurate map of what under Mars’ surface. This, Banerdt says, will help bridge the gap between fragmented knowledge about the planet where men come from. “Vast regions of the planet deeper than a few miles, or so, (have) been almost completely unknown to us. InSight will change that with a single stroke“, he added.
InSight lander also carried the Mars Cube One (MarCO) experiment along with the probe. MarCO is a CubeSat or miniature cubical satellite and consists of two miniature spacecraft hooked together. It is the first CubeSat to be used in deep space and will be used for testing communication capabilities.
These tests will aid future explorations to Mars that might involve humans and help them navigate to specific locations on the planet’s surface and clearly be of use to Elon Musk.