A newly developed robot geologist carrying a quake monitor and a hammer lifted off towards the red planet on Saturday with the intent of exploring the interior of Mars’ rocky surface.
To take advance of a flight backlog, NASA launched the InSight Mars prove from a Launchpad in California. This move made it the first United States interplanetary mission that was not launched from Florida’s famous Cape Canaveral launch base.
Despite heavy fog, the launch went as scheduled and was watched by pre-dawn groups outside the Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The craft is estimated to take over 6 months to reach Mars and begin performing its geological excavations. The probe will travel around 485 million kilometres through space to reach the red planet.
The InSight (Interior Exploration Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport) is set to dig the deepest into Mars’ surface of any probe in order to record the planet’s temperature.
The probe is also set to take the first measurements aiming to detect the Mars equivalent of earthquakes; marsquakes. It will use an advanced seismometer placed onto the planet’s surface.
Scientists hope that the information will help them understand more about the planets, such as how thick the outer crust is and what the interior of the planet looks like.
The Atlas V space rocket carrying the probe will also deliver a pair of small satellites, known as CubeSats, which are designed to track the InSight probe all the way to Mars.
The two Mars CubeSats are named EVE and WALL-E, a nod to the 2008 animated film WALL-E. The billion USD mission involves scientists from several countries including Germany and France.
This marks NASA’s first Mars missions since the 2012 Curiosity rover back in 2012. While Curiosity did provide a lot of information, scientists are eager to learn even more about Mars.
Interest in the exploration of Mars has peaked in recent years with private companies like Tesla forecasting plans for the colonisation of the planet in the near future.