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Marsquakes, WALL-E and the inside of the red planet: lead scientist on NASA Mars mission previews Saturday launch

An artist's concept depicts the InSight lander on Mars.
An artist's concept depicts the InSight lander on Mars.

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On Saturday, NASA is launching a spacecraft to Mars for a mission that aims to go beneath the surface (both figuratively and literally) of the red planet to answer questions about its temperature, the composition and size of its core and its geologic activity (or “Marsquakes").

InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is launching from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:05 a.m. PDT, the first interplanetary mission to be initiated from outside of Cape Canaveral in Florida. This $1 billion mission will send a robotic geologist to study the insides of the planet.

For more info on the InSight mission, click here

This lander will be accompanied by two briefcase-size satellites which will be testing out whether InSight can pass along communication signals during the journey and after the landing. These CubeSats are nicknamed WALL-E and EVE, after the Pixar movie characters. They use the same propulsion mechanism that a fire extinguisher uses to spray foam, and which was used by WALL-E to steer himself in zero gravity.

We get a preview of the InSight launch with Bruce Banerdt, the chief scientist on the mission.


Bruce Banerdt, Principal Investigator and Scientist of the InSight mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory