How to See Mars with NASA's InSight Lander Launch on Saturday

The Mars rover Curiosity self-portrait

Watch the Mars InSight launch live online as NASA begins its next mission to the Red Planet

The mission is set to lift off on an Atlas V 401 rocket on Saturday, May 5 from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The instrument will nestle beneath a protective wind shield as its three delicate pendulums measure the tiniest of tremors.

Aside from measuring earthquakes and weather, the mission will also dig a hole up to five metres underground, using a specially designed "self-hammering" device that drives down a millimetre at a time, allowing temperatures to be measured along the way without the wild day-to-night surface changes.

An artist's rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars.

A University of B.C. geophysicist is excited to be pulling an all-nighter to witness the launch of a historic mission to Mars.

"It will be the first geophysical observatory on Mars", adds Ana-Catalina Plesa, a planetary geophysicist at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin. By tracking how that energy bounces around the planet's interior, researchers can calculate fundamental information such as the size of Earth's core. It's scheduled to parachute on to the surface of Mars on November 26th, where it will deploy seismometers and other equipment. While Earth's molten rock mantel and frequent quakes have made figuring out that progression tricky, Mars is less geologically active.

Even if you aren't physically in California to see the launch in the wee hours of the morning, you can still catch the high-flying Mars action live online thanks to NASA. After that, for around two years InSight is expected to track as many as a dozen Marsquakes, which could reach around 6 or 8 on the Richter scale.

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Holding a globe portraying the planet she's studied since her undergraduate degree in her country, Germany, she pointed out the landing site in a vast plain just south of Elysium Mons, a 14-kilometre tall volcano. "Our goal is to collect something like 30 quakes over the mission", says Philippe Lognonné, a geophysicist at the Paris Institute of Earth Physics who leads the seismometer team. "If the experiment is successful, it will be of great value for future missions and will open a whole new spectrum of opportunities", she said.

NASA originally scheduled the $828.8 million mission to blast off two-and-a-half years ago.

"Mars is still a pretty mysterious planet", Banerdt said.

There, the rover and two satellites will survey the Red Planet's terrain to learn how the planet was formed, seismic activity, and the effects of meteorites.

Worldwide partners contributed $180m (£133m), with Germany providing the instruments for measuring heat flow and France equipping InSight with the seismic payload.

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