NASA's first mission to study Red Planet's interior lifts off early Saturday


It has very sensitive seismometers on it (called SEIS, for Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure), created to investigate seismic activity on Mars.

Barrett is coordinating surface operations for the mission's science and instrument teams.

Sarah Black, who recently completed her PhD in Geological Sciences at CU Boulder, analyzes minerals from recent eruptive activity near Laguna Caliente.

Before sunrise on Saturday morning, a NASA rocket is scheduled to lift off from a California launchpad with an interplanetary spacecraft aboard and set forth on a six-month journey to Mars to study the guts of the Red Planet.

They'll be deployed along with the lander to act as a communications link between InSight and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is already orbiting the Red Planet. The seismometer will measure vibrations from any marsquakes that might still be happening as well as from meteorite impacts.

Nasa hopes to gather information on 100 Mars-quakes over the two-year mission.

The patterns of different seismic waves can reveal details about Mars' insides.

InSight is an abbreviation for the means the project will initialize-Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport-in order to meet the program's goals on Mars. They're all stationary three-legged landers; no roaming around. "CubeSats haven't had to survive the intense radiation of a trip to deep space before or use propulsion to point their way towards Mars".

The lander will also be equipped with a hammer - a heat flow probe - that will essentially take the temperature of the planet at depths of up to three metres.

Combined with the seismometer's observations, the probe's data could help scientists understand where Mars sits on the evolutionary timeline of rocky planets. Mars is smaller and cooler, and its convection is slowed or stopped. The magnetic field of Mars, on the other hand, may measure anywhere from just a few hundred to a few thousand.

The question is how far back?

Scientists' estimate of the number of quakes the craft will record over two years. It is the successor of the NASA's Phoenix Lander, which about a decade ago spent a successful week at the Mars. InSight's cameras were leftovers sitting in inventory.

With the successful outcome of Monday's flight readiness review, United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 team and InSight engineers planned a final countdown dress rehearsal Tuesday. It's the first planetary mission to launch from the edge of the Pacific.

The mission was originally slated to launch in March 2016, but NASA delayed the departure after trouble encountered during assembly and testing of InSight's seismometer instrument.

For planetary missions, NASA needs the orbits of Earth and its target to line up just right.

The official start of the countdown begins today at 10:14 a.m PDT (13.05 p.m EDT/17.05 p.m GMT) but starting tomorrow from 4:05 a.m PDT (7:05 a.m EDT/11.05 a.m GMT), a two hour launch window will open every day - should the first attempt at take-off not go quite according to plan - that is available until 8 June.

Wall-E and Eva are the size of briefcases and will follow InSight on their own paths to Mars. Instead, they will fly past the planet. This will be the very first time that an interplanetary mission will launch from Vandenberg, which is located 9.2 miles (14.8 kilometers) northwest of Lompoc, California. This will be the first deep-space testing of CubeSat technology.

"Going forward, this will translate to allowing us to go places and do measurements that we haven't been able to make before", he says.

"This mission will offer us a chance ... to complete the picture of what we know".