NASA’s next mission to Mars, Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), is scheduled to launch Saturday, May 5, on a first-ever mission to study the heart of Mars. Coverage of prelaunch and launch activities begins Thursday, May 3, on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
InSight, the first planetary mission to take off from the West Coast, is targeted to launch at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.
Launching on the same rocket is a separate NASA technology experiment known as Mars Cube One (MarCO). MarCO consists of two mini-spacecraft and will be the first test of CubeSat technology in deep space. They are designed to test new communications and navigation capabilities for future missions and may aid InSight communications.
NASA TV and online mission coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):
Thursday, May 3
4 p.m. – Prelaunch Briefing
- Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters
- Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL
- Annick Sylvestre-Baron, deputy project manager for the InSight seismometer investigation at France’s space agency, the Center National d’Études Spatiales
- Philippe Lognonné, InSight seismometer investigation lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris in France
- Tilman Spohn, investigation lead at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3), an instrument on InSight
- Andrew Klesh, MarCO chief engineer at JPL
- Anne Marinan, MarCO systems engineer at JPL
- Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space
- Tim Dunn, launch director with NASA’s Launch Services Program
- Scott Messer, ULA program manager for NASA launches
- Col. Michael Hough, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg
- 1st Lt. Kristina Williams, weather officer for the 30th Space Wing
Saturday, May 5
6:30 a.m. – Launch coverage begins.
7:05 a.m. – Launch time
Public Launch Viewing
There are two official launch viewing sites for the public in Lompoc, California. For information on these sites, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/mission/timeline/launch/watch-in-person/
InSight will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth. It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior. The resulting insight into Mars’ formation will help us better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created.
JPL manages the InSight mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver.
Several European partners, including France’s space agency, the Center National d’Étude Spatiales, and Germany’s DLR, are supporting the mission.
ULA, of Centennial, Colorado, is providing the Atlas V launch service. The Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.