If all goes according to plan, the InSight lander - created to look below the surface of Mars, mapping its interior - will take flight to the red planet atop an Atlas V rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:05 a.m. ET. But Odyssey will be in the wrong position to keep tabs on InSight, so NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed another solution. It is glorified to be the first Mars mission to peep inside the Martian surface. Using the heat probe to determine whether that's true will help scientists gauge the accuracy of their theories about how Mars formed.
"Perhaps it was lost because the interior cooled due to Mars being smaller than the Earth so its core might have been smaller and the mantle that provides insulation might have been smaller, too", he said.
"It's a lander, not a rover, and it will deploy a variety of instruments down onto the ground". Thus, scientists will be looking backward in time when they study Mars' frozen innards.
The InSight mission combines a unique combination of scientific innovation and legacy technology.
Artist's Concept of InSight Lander on Mars.
The spacecraft launching this weekend from Vandenberg Airforce Base in California will also take the planet's pulse by making the first measurements of "marsquakes". Among them is Exploration Mission 1, the first flight test of NASA's planned platform for the human exploration of deep space.
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. So far, though, their impact has been limited to missions in Earth orbit.
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.
InSight's launch period is from May 5 to June 8, 2018, with multiple launch opportunities across windows of approximately two hours every day.
"By studying Mars we can learn about the formation of Earth itself", she said. On the other hand, launch opportunities have been set five minutes apart during every window and irrespective of the date of InSight's launch, it's landing on Mars has been scheduled for November 26, 2018, around 3 p.m. EST. The two mini spacecraft will also be a few thousand miles (kilometers) apart from one another. But you should get up before dawn on Saturday and look to the northwest.
After its arrival, the car-sized spacecraft will land on the red world and start gathering data. Live televised coverage will be available on NASA TV, and I've conveniently added the YouTube live feed at the top of this post.