Nasa blasts off Mars-bound spaceship to study quakes

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"Three, two, one, liftoff!" said a NASA commentator as the unmanned spacecraft blasted off on a dark, foggy morning atop an Atlas V rocket at 4.05am Pacific time (1105 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking Nasa's first interplanetary launch from the U.S. west coast.

The Mars InSight probe took off from Vandenberg air force base in California, making it the first USA interplanetary spacecraft to be launched over the Pacific.

The spacecraft will take more than six months to get to Mars and start its unprecedented geologic excavations, traveling 300 million miles to get there.

InSight will dig deeper into Mars than ever before - almost 16 feet, or 5 meters - to take the planet's temperature.

After the lander settles on the Martian surface, a robotic arm is supposed to emerge and place the seismometer directly on the ground.

"You know we spend our lives working on Mars missions and we don't get to send them off that many times so when it really comes together, we're just thrilled", said Business Development Manager for Lockheed Martin, David Murrow.

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Should the mission team based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory require any corrective telecommands to be uplinked to InSight then they would make a request to ESA's ESOC European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, which is staffed 24 hrs/day and manages all ESA Estrack stations, including New Norcia and Malargüe. Only about 40% of all missions to Mars from all countries - orbiters and landers alike - have proven successful over the decades. The U.S., in fact, is the only country to successfully land and operate a spacecraft at Mars.

"This is of fundamental importance to understand the origin of our solar system and how it became the way it is today".

"This is my fifth Mars project, this is my fifth launch and it's nearly feels like the delivery of a baby - it's always different", said Ashitey Trebi-ollennu, Instrument Deployment System Lead for NASA. The locations of other Mars landers and rovers are indicated on the graphic.

The launch is the first voyage between planets that NASA has conducted from the Vandenberg site. If all goes as planned, the mission will be operative for roughly two Earth years, or around one Martian year. The size and period of the wobbles will indicate the size of the liquid core inside Mars.

InSight's launch was delayed two years ago due to problems with the French-supplied seismometer.

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