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NASA launches Mars lander InSight for November touchdown

This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday, May 5, 2018, and land on Mars six months later. (NASA via AP)

The NASA probe InSight is a state-of-the-art robotic spacecraft that launched recently from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The craft has sailed into the darkness of space and will land on the red planet Nov. 26.

Once there, InSight will conduct a number of scientific experiments, as well as take images on the surface with some amazing cameras.

The main goal of this robotic craft is to explore the ground below it, with a series of experiments utilizing a seismometer and a sounding probe.

Most of the previous Mars missions have explored the surface and the planet’s atmosphere, but InSight will shed light on the sub surface, as well.

The InSight spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems and had a launch weight of some 1,590 pounds.

The craft will be powered by a array of solar panels, to help generate a 600-watt output for many of the onboard instruments. The craft will land in a region of Mars that is known as Elysium Planitia, some 4.5 degrees north of the Martian equator.

This site was chosen for its mission-favorable geology, as well as a good temperate region to keep the solar panels going strong.

InSight is a backronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The spacecraft will function and conduct many scientific experiments over a period of two years.

Mars is a difficult planet to thrive on and it is equally difficult to get a spacecraft there and to survive the landing process.

Many previous attempts at landing on Mars have not been so successful.

The cost of this particular spacecraft is in the area of $825 million.

In addition to the main payload, the Atlas V rocket launched two small CubeSats satellites, which will also sail on towards Mars.

Mars will get within 35 million miles of us in late July. This will be the closest it’s been to Earth since 2003.

There will be some great opportunities for people to view Mars in large telescopes and Dr. Sky will be conducting some “Mars Mania 2018” events around the state, to keep up with all that is going on with these Mars missions and the prospects for a manned landing on Mars, possibly as early as 2030.

Keep track of the InSight mission.

Print your very own May 2018 star chart.

Viewsatellites, dates and times of passage.

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