NASA launches mission to Mars

Mars is about to get its first thorough checkup since it formed billions of years ago, as NASA's InS...

Posted: May 6, 2018 9:38 AM
Updated: May 6, 2018 9:38 AM

Mars is about to get its first thorough checkup since it formed billions of years ago, as NASA's InSight heads to the red planet after launching Saturday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California

"Three ... two ... ... zero ... Lift off, of the Atlas V -- launching the first interplanetary mission from the West Coast and NASA's Insight, the first outer space robotic explorer to study the interior of Mars," a NASA announcer declared amid the rumble of takeoff at 7:05 a.m. ET, via NASA TV.

The Atlas V 401 rocket also carried two suitcase-size spacecraft, designed to orbit Mars, as it blasted into the dark and cloudy sky, which turned bright gold for seconds as the rocket ascended in a plume of smoke. NASA's previous interplanetary missions launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

After a six-month journey, if it all goes as planned, InSight -- whose name is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport -- will touch down just north of the Martian equator on November 26, joining five other NASA spacecraft operating on and above Mars.

The 790-pound (358-kilogram) probe will then begin its two-year science mission to seek the "fingerprints" of the processes that formed the rocky planets of the solar system. It will measure the planet's "vital signs: 'its "pulse' (seismology), 'temperature' (heat flow) and 'reflexes' (precision tracking)," according to NASA.

The explorer doesn't have wheels, so it can't roll around gathering up dirt to study. But it does have a 7.8-foot-long (2.4-meter) robotic arm. The arm will place a seismometer on the ground to detect "marsquakes" (think earthquakes, but on Mars, of course).

InSight also will burrow 10 to 16 feet into the crust of Mars, going 15 times deeper than any previous Martian mission, according to NASA.

The mission's principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt, told CNN he thinks InSight will fill the last gaping hole in NASA's exploration of Mars, some 75 million miles (121 kilometers) from Earth.

"We have mapped the surface of the entire planet in terms of visible features, topography, gravity and magnetic fields," he said. "We have studied the atmosphere, both globally and at the surface. We have roved around the surface at four different places, studying the geology and piecing together the history of the surface.

"But until now, the vast regions of the planet deeper than a few miles, or so, (have) been almost completely unknown to us," Banerdt said. "InSight will change that with a single stroke."

InSight's mission aims ultimately to answer age-old questions -- Are we alone in the universe? Is there potential for life on a planet that's not Earth? -- NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video tweeted Saturday by the space agency.

"This is an important mission not just for the United states but an important mission for the world," he said, "so we can better understand why planets change and ultimately understand even more about our own planet."

Huntsville
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Florence
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Fayetteville
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 57°
Decatur
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 64°
Scottsboro
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18018

Reported Deaths: 644
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2239116
Jefferson1837102
Montgomery171040
Tuscaloosa78315
Marshall6939
Franklin5567
Lee54833
Shelby51720
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41118
Chambers35525
Walker3542
Elmore3548
Madison3394
Baldwin2909
Morgan2801
Dallas2723
Etowah25711
DeKalb2483
Lowndes24612
Coffee2361
Sumter2247
Autauga2214
Houston2204
Bullock2095
Pike2030
Colbert1842
Hale1739
Russell1710
Marengo1706
Barbour1671
Lauderdale1642
Calhoun1603
Choctaw1538
Wilcox1487
Clarke1442
Cullman1430
Randolph1277
St. Clair1231
Marion12211
Pickens1164
Dale1150
Talladega1135
Limestone1060
Chilton1011
Greene944
Winston900
Macon824
Henry802
Covington801
Jackson782
Crenshaw753
Bibb751
Washington706
Escambia633
Blount621
Lawrence500
Geneva430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Monroe402
Perry390
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 22566

Reported Deaths: 364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson504062
Shelby4943111
Trousdale13924
Rutherford119623
Sumner88145
Hamilton79415
Bledsoe6071
Williamson55210
Putnam4795
Robertson4653
Tipton4423
Out of TN4184
Lake4140
Wilson4078
Knox3755
Bedford2834
Montgomery2693
Rhea2100
Hardeman1960
Madison1752
Loudon1430
McMinn14114
Macon1363
Cheatham1230
Bradley1221
Fayette1152
Cumberland1121
Dickson1090
Unassigned920
Blount913
Maury890
Sevier812
Washington750
Coffee730
Wayne640
Gibson631
Monroe622
Sullivan602
Hickman580
Lauderdale561
Franklin531
Greene502
Dyer500
Marion401
Anderson401
DeKalb370
Hamblen362
Smith341
White330
Hawkins332
Lawrence310
Grundy311
Haywood312
Marshall311
Obion301
Henry300
Jefferson280
Carroll271
Overton260
Meigs260
Weakley260
Lincoln250
Warren230
Cannon210
Perry210
Cocke200
Carter191
Campbell181
Morgan170
Jackson170
Crockett162
Roane160
Polk160
Johnson160
Henderson150
Hardin152
Sequatchie150
Humphreys131
Fentress120
McNairy120
Chester120
Giles120
Scott120
Stewart110
Claiborne90
Houston80
Grainger80
Clay70
Benton71
Decatur50
Unicoi40
Union40
Van Buren40
Lewis30
Pickett30
Moore30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events