NASA begins a new chapter in its mission to study the deep interiors of Mars. The space agency has just launched its InSight lander to investigate the red planet.
Beating The Fog
On Saturday, May 5, the U.S. Space Agency's InSight Lander lifted off at 4:05 am PST from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Multiple reports stated that the launch was successful despite the dense fog that surrounded the area.
The fog did not discourage a rare pre-dawn crowd who were there to send the lander off. NASA officials stated that it marked the first time that an interplanetary mission launched from the West Coast.
A Lengthy Mission
Space agency representatives are expecting that it will take six months for the InSight Lander to reach Mars. If InSight has a successful journey to Mars, the space vehicle is scheduled to touch down on Mars' surface on Nov. 26 near the Martian equator.
Once it will have landed, the InSight will begin investigating Mars's deep interior. The mission is estimated to last until Nov. 24, 2020.
A Tale Of Two Planets
NASA officials hope that it could compare InSight's findings with research on Earth's interior. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport, is expected to look for any signs that Mars could support life on the planet. The mission will also require InSight to measure not only quakes but also dig 16 feet into the Red Planet's surface and take its temperature.
Bruce Banerdt, InSight mission's principal investigator, stated that the spacecraft could provide a possible connection to Mars and Earth. Banerdt said that Mars has kept the basic planetary geographical structure while Earth has changed over time due to the mantle's movements and destruction brought upon by continental drift.
"And by mapping out these boundaries, these various different sections of the inside of the planet, we can then understand better how the planet was formed and how our planet got to be the way it is," said Banerdt to CBS News.
This particular mission to Mars is an expensive project as it is reported that taxpayers paid $813 million for the lander. Also, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will also post an additional $18.5 million for satellites to relay the InSight's research back to Earth.
CNES, the French space agency, and the German Aerospace Center gave NASA two pieces of essential equipment for the mission, which is valued at $180 million.
Additional Updates On Space Missions
NASA successfully tested a prototype of a nuclear reactor power system. The U.S. space agency believes that the power system could help astronauts with potential Mars missions and possible trips to the moon. It conducted the test with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.
Meanwhile, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space announced that it will send cotton to space. The news coincides with the selection of three projects that won the Cotton Sustainability Challenge. Once onboard the International Space Station, scientists will be challenged to come up with ways to produce cotton through a sustainable water.
On April 26, NASA and the European Space Agency signed a letter of intent as they collaborate on several missions that will bring samples of Martian soil back to Earth. Representatives of both agencies believed that by studying the soil, they could piece together how the solar system was formed.