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NASA's Mars InSight started its groundbreaking deep-space mission to monitor the inner core of the Red Planet.

Also aboard the Atlas V rocket: A pair of mini-satellites, or CubeSats, meant to trail InSight all the way to Mars in a first-of-its-kind technology demonstration.

Brian Bone, flight systems engineer for InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a UCSB mechanical engineering graduate who has spent six years on the program, said he was excited to see the mission underway.

A NASA official says the InSight probe will be important for future manned missions to Mars.

"Recent Mars missions have snapped pictures of the surface, studied rocks, dug in the dirt and looked for signs that water once flowed on Mars".

Regardless of when the rocket actually launches, InSight is scheduled to land on Mars on November 26. "I want to express my sincerest thanks to the entire ULA team, NASA and all our partners and suppliers for their exceptional teamwork and dedication to another successful mission".

Mars is believed to have retained its characteristics since its birth 4.5 billion years ago as the planet has been free of tectonic plate movements.

Once InSight arrives, it will set up its instruments, carefully placing a seismometer on the red planet's surface and drilling a temperature probe nearly 16 feet down.


During InSight's entry, descent and landing (EDL) operations, the lander will transmit information in the UHF radio band to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) flying overhead.

"We were fortunate to have a great turnout at our Lompoc Airport for this historic Insight Mission to Mars launch", said Lompoc city spokeswoman Samantha Scroggin. But it does have a 7.8-foot-long (2.4-meter) robotic arm.

According to NASA, the Mars lander is created to give the Red Planet "its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago".

Over the course of two Earth years - one Martian year - scientists expect InSight's three main experiments to provide a true 3D image of Mars.

"InSight, for seismologists, will really be a piece of history, a new page of history", said the Paris Institute of Earth Physics' Philippe Lognonne, lead scientist of the InSight seismometer. It went into a polar trajectory, heading south along the coast of South America.

Nasa normally launches from Cape Canaveral, but chose to switch to California for InSight to take advantage of a shorter flight backlog. - NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video tweeted Saturday by the space agency.

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