NASA plans to launch spacecraft to study 'heart' of Mars Saturday morning

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The U.S. space agency's InSight lander will study the Red Planet's interior using a "self-hammering" probe that will dig deeper than ever before.

Lockheed Martin is the contractor working on NASA's InSight spacecraft, which is headed to Mars. Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said that their heat shield is not very similar to Mars 2020 but they some of the same processes of the same designs.

The mission is set to lift off on an Atlas V 401 rocket on Saturday, May 5 from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The true value of the InSight mission, however, goes beyond Mars.

It will record and use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to chart out a map of the planet' deep interior.

InSight now is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California undergoing final preparation before launch. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2020, when Earth and Mars are properly aligned for an interplanetary mission, and arrive at the Red Planet in early 2021.

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Launching on the same rocket is a separate NASA technology experiment called Mars Cube One (MarCO).

Cal Poly engineering students assisted Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and JPL in preparing and testing the twin satellite units. However, regardless of the launch date, InSight will be reaching Mars' surface on 26 November. The lander will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all rocky planets formed, including Earth and its Moon.

NASA's latest mission to Mars aims to provide "foundational information of the planet's history and its activity", he added. NASA specifically chose the nothingness of Elysium Planitia because InSight is not interested in what is on Mars's surface, but rather what lies underneath.

The planet's thin atmosphere makes landing a challenge, and its extreme temperature swings make it hard to operate on the surface.

The Mars 2020 mission is created to search the Red Planet's surface for signs of ancient microbial life, and the six-wheeled robot will also hunt for and characterize potentially habitable environments.