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NASA on Saturday launched its latest Mars lander, called InSight, designed to perch on the surface and listen for "Marsquakes" ahead of eventual human missions to explore the Red Planet.
"Three, two, one, liftoff!" said a NASA commentator as the spacecraft blasted off on a dark, foggy morning atop an Atlas V rocket at 4:05 am Pacific time (1105 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking NASA's first interplanetary launch from the US west coast.
Project - Aims - Knowledge - Conditions - Mars
The $993 million project aims to expand our knowledge of interior conditions on Mars, inform efforts to send human explorers there, and reveal how rocky planets like the Earth formed billions of years ago.
If all goes as planned during the 301 million mile (485 million kilometer) journey, the lander should settle on the Red Planet on November 26.
InSight - Interior - Exploration - Seismic - Investigations
InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
"#Mars, here I come! Six months and counting to the Red Planet," said a message on InSight's Twitter account.
NASA - Scientist - Jim - Green - Experts
NASA chief scientist Jim Green said experts already know that Mars has quakes, avalanches and meteor strikes.
"But how quake-prone is Mars? That is fundamental information that we need to know as humans that explore Mars," Green said.
Instrument - Board - Seismometer - Seismic - Experiment
The key instrument on board is a seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, made by the French Space Agency.
After the lander settles on the Martian surface, a robotic arm is supposed to emerge and place the seismometer directly on the ground.
InSight - Mission - Hear - Heartbeat - Mars
"For us, InSight is perhaps not the ultimate but a very, very important mission because we are going to the hear the heartbeat of Mars with the seismometer we put on board," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), in an interview on NASA television after...
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