West Coast Mars launch set for Saturday

Solar arrays designed and manufactured by Orbital ATK-Goleta

Pence, who is the chair of the National Space Council, arrived one week before the agency's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is scheduled to launch, according to a recentstatement by the space agency. Accompanying it are two mini-satellites dubbed WALL-E and EVE, named after the animated movie characters (they use the same type of propulsion used in fire extinguishers to shoot foam - in the movie, WALL-E used a fire extinguisher to propel himself through space).

He'll be with the team not only to view the first interplanetary launch from the west coast of the United States but to take part in a science team meeting, when he will present findings of his recent work on the evaluation of soil thickness at the landing site.

Unlike the Curiosity rover, it won't drive around the surface of the planet. Warner eagerly anticipates the data the InSight lander will gather and transmit back to Earth.

Like Earth, Mars wobbles a little as it rotates around its axis; by precisely tracking the location of the lander with two radio antennas, RISE will be able to measure the slightest changes in the landers location to reveal how Mars is moving in its orbit. This will provide a unique insight (geddit?) into Mars' history.

InSight is scheduled to launch May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on an Atlas V 401 rocket.

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Nasa has a new lander heading to Mars.

Landing on Mars with a spacecraft that's not much bigger than a couple of office desks is "a hugely hard task, and every time we do it, we're on pins and needles", Banerdt said.

They will serve as relays required for atmospheric entry, descent and landing InSight. The news site says that the instrument is so sensitive it can detect Mars-quakes on the other side of the planet from where the reading is taking place. Measuring nearly 16 feet, the probe will help scientists track the flow of heat through Mars' interior. The moon still holds seismometers left behind by the 12 moonmen. Thus, scientists will be looking backward in time when they study Mars' frozen innards. The Martian atmosphere and magnetic field also have been examined in detail over the decades. "Once we're on the ground and have communications set up, I'm confident we can get a lot of great science out of the mission, no matter what happens".

The InSight mission aims to drop a lander the size of a garden table on to Elysium Planitia, a broad, flat and largely rockless lava plain on the Martian equator, from where it will become the first robotic probe to survey the centre of the red planet. "Even with all the studying that we've done, it could throw us a curveball".

"Mars is still a pretty mysterious planet", Banerdt said.

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