The date and time are scheduled, the location is fixed. NASA, U.S.’ space agency is counting days for its next launch on May 5 precisely at 4:05 am PDT when NASA’s InSight or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport lander will launch for its journey to the northern hemisphere of Mars where it will land at its destined location in the Elysium Planitia region.
InSight will examine the deep interior of Mars where it will study the formation of this rocky planet which is analogous to any other rocky planet and the moon formation. But that’s not all. NASA’s InSight will mark the first-ever interplanetary mission to take off from the west coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Until now, all the interplanetary missions that NASA has commissioned were launched from the east coast from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
InSight lander will be launched aboard massive 57.3-metre tall United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The lander is equipped with seismometer to detect marsquakes (quakes on the red planet) as well as monitor the heat signature and flow of heat in the subsurface. As per the manifest, the window for its launch commences at 4:05 am PDT and lasts for over two hours. The ULA Atlas V 401 that will be used to lift off the lander is a two-stage rocket that produces humongous 3.8 million Newtons of thrust. The trajectory of the preprogrammed such that it will lift off vertically for 17 seconds post its lift off and then, it will climb towards the South Pole trajectory. In just 1 minute and 18 seconds into launch, the rocket will reach at an altitude of 1.75 km and a distance of 9 km from the launch pad.
In just 2 minutes and 36 seconds, the first stage of the Atlas V rocket will be cut off at around 106 and 296 km after which, the Centaur’s engine i.e. thrusters mounted to the first stage will ignite producing over 101,820 newtons of thrust capable of taking the lander to its parking orbit of 185-km in just 13 minutes and 16 seconds after which, it will be shut off. Then, post 1 hour and 19 minutes of the launch, the Centaur’s engine will reignite that will put the lander into the Mars-bound interplanetary trajectory.
As a contingency plan, NASA has reserved the launch window between May 5 and June 8, 2018, within which, the space agency will have multiple chances to lift off the interplanetary spacecraft. The spacecraft is destined to land at the Elysium Planitia in the northern hemisphere of the planet on November 26 when it is planned to make a landing at a carefully chosen and preprogrammed landing site.