West Coast Mars launch set for Saturday

NASA Is Launching Its Latest Mars Lander To Study 'Marsquakes'

A University of B.C. geophysicist is excited to be pulling an all-nighter to witness the launch of a historic mission to Mars.

The goal of InSight is to fill that knowledge gap, helping NASA map out the deep structure of Mars. While this mission is not directly focused on the search for life, as past missions have been, some of the findings about Mars' mysterious core could hold clues to ancient conditions that may have supported life, The New York Times' Kenneth Chang reports.

The trip to Mars will take almost seven months and cover roughly 301 million miles. It is expected to reach Mars on November 26, 2018.

NASA aims to blast off its InSight payload from Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Base in California on Saturday May 5. Perhaps InSight will be able to answer some very important questions like why Earth is a habitable paradise and Mars is a cold and barren rock.

The planets come into that alignment this week, making 4:05 a.m. Saturday the start of the first two-hour window that will work for liftoff.

NASA TV will air the live broadcast of the InSight launch starting at 6:30 a.m. ET. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASAs launch service provider of the Atlas 5 rocket.

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After InSight lands, it will plop its watermelon-sized seismometer-built by the French space agency CNES-onto the Martian ground.

But no one has yet done this on Mars. Team members couldn't resist the connection, thus the names WALL-E and EVE for the two mini spacecraft.

These Mars-bound cubes are nicknamed WALL-E and EVE after the animated movie characters. The two mini spacecraft will also be a few thousand miles (kilometers) apart from one another. While that may seem far apart, it's actually fairly close by space standards, according to Brian Clement, an engineer on the project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"We did a complete review of our heat shield documentation", Banerdt said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. Don't expect any Thunderbird pilot-theatrics as the cubes fly by, like a tilting of the solar wings in salute.

That said, the weather isn't looking great for launch viewing.

They will serve as relays required for atmospheric entry, descent and landing InSight. No worries if they're silent. In the case of the MarCO CubeSats technology took a step forward: it will be tested a relatively small, flat antenna with high gain, which was specially developed for data transfer between planets. It will take a lot longer, though, to get confirmation. Together, they'll track the wobble of the Martian North Pole, as it's pushed and pulled by the orbit of the sun.

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