NASA on Saturday launched its latest Mars lander, called InSight, designed to perch on the surface and listen for “Marsquakes” ahead of eventual human missions to explore the Red Planet.
“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 4:05 am Pacific time (1105 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking NASA’s first interplanetary launch from the US west coast.
The $993 million project aims to expand human knowledge of interior conditions on Mars, inform efforts to send explorers there, and reveal how rocky planets like the Earth formed billions of years ago.
“This is a big day. We are going back to Mars,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine after the launch.
“It is important for our country. It is also important for the world and it really establishes American leadership in a lot of ways.”
About an hour and 40 minutes into the…