NASA mission to study interior of Mars set for Saturday launch

Washington: NASA is all set to launch on Saturday the first mission designed to study the deep interior of Mars called the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight).

It will launch at 7.05 a.m. (4.35 p.m. India time) aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“I’m excited for this mission to go beneath the surface of Mars to explore its crust, mantle and core — as well as marsquakes,” NASA’s 13th Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Friday.

The ULA rocket will carry the spacecraft over the Channel Islands just off the California Coast and continue climbing out over the Pacific, shadowing the coastline south beyond Baja California in Mexico.

InSight’s Atlas will reach orbit about 13 minutes after launch, when the rocket is about 1,900 kilometres northwest of Isabella Island, Ecuador, NASA said in a statement.

InSight will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all rocky planets formed, including Earth and its Moon.

The lander’s instruments include a seismometer to detect marsquakes, and a probe that will monitor the flow of heat from the planet’s interior.

InSight will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.

It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.