By Steve Gaimann
NASA launched a space probe early Saturday on a mission to study Mars, helping to fill large gaps in scientists’ understanding of the planet’s geologic structure, composition and seismic activity.
An Atlas V rocket carrying Mars InSight roared into the pre-dawn skies at 4:05 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. It is NASA’s first deep-space mission sent from the West Coast.
Mars InSight is the first NASA mission to study the red planet’s interior — or, as the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory phrases it, “the vital signs of Mars.” InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
The 794-pound lander, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is set to touch down on Nov. 26 after a six-month cruise and six-minute re-entry and descent — the most perilous aspect of the journey.
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