NASA has launched the Mars InSight lander from California, a stationary lander that will research seismic activity and the mysterious interior of the red planet.
After reaching its destination in a little less than seven months and planting itself on a plain near the Martian equator, the lander will dig into the interior of the planet and analyze seismic activity – or 'marsquakes' – to learn more about the interior of Earth's neighbor.
Unlike Earth, current evidence doesn't indicate that Mars has a crust broken into plates, so seismic activity isn't formed the same way as on our planet. Still, the red planet has faults in its crust and a great deal of volcanic activity. Meteorite impacts can also have seismic effects.
InSight "will probe the interior of another terrestrial planet, giving us an idea of the size of the core, the mantle, the crust – and our ability then to compare that with the Earth," NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green said during a news conference.
"This is of fundamental importance for us to understand the origin of our solar system and how it became the way it is today."
The mission lifted off on May 5, at 4:05 a.m. local time, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
"This is a big day. We're going back to Mars," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
Unlike previous Mars missions, such as Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity, this lander will be a stationary one. If all goes as planned, the mission will be operative for roughly two Earth years, or around one Martian year.