Bound for Mars: Countdown to First Interplanetary Launch from California

In the early morning hours of May 5, millions
of Californians
will have an opportunity to witness a sight they have never
seen before – the historic first interplanetary launch from
America’s West
Coast. On board the 189-foot-tall (57.3-meter)
United Launch Alliance Atlas V
rocket will be NASA’s InSight
spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in
northern hemisphere. The May 5 launch window
for the
InSight mission opens at 4:05 am PDT (7:05 EDT, 11:05 UTC) and
open for two hours.

“If you live in Southern California and the
weather is right,
you’ll probably have a better view of the launch than I
said Tom Hoffman, project manager for NASA’s InSight mission
from the
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“I’ll be stuck inside a
control room looking at monitors —
which is not the best way to enjoy an Atlas
5 on its way to

NASA’s InSight to Mars will be the first interplanetary launch
from America’s West Coast. Residents in some of California’s
coastal communities could get a front row seat when the mission
launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Here’s when and where
to see it.

In clear skies, the InSight launch should be
viewable up and
down a wide swath of the California coast. Residents from as
far north as Bakersfield to perhaps as far south as Rosarito,
Mexico, may see
the Atlas rocket rising in the predawn sky and
then heading south, parallel to
the coastline.

The United Launch Alliance
two-stage Atlas V 401 launch
vehicle will produce 860,200 pounds (3.8 million newtons) of
thrust as it climbs away from its launch pad at Vandenberg Air
Force Base, near
Lompoc, California. During the first 17
seconds of
powered flight, the Atlas V will climb vertically
above its launch pad. Then it
will begin a pitch and yaw
maneuver that will place it on a trajectory towards
south pole.

“After lift-off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 3,
Atlas V begins a southerly trajectory and climbs out over the
Islands off Oxnard,” said Tim Dunn, launch director
for the Launch
Services Program at the John F. Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. “If
you live on the California Central
Coast or south to L.A. and San Diego, be
sure to get up early
on May 5th, because Atlas V is the gold
standard in
launch vehicles and it can put on a great show.”

Mach One occurs 1 minute and 18 seconds into
the Atlas V’s
powered flight. At that time the vehicle will be about 30,000
feet (9 kilometers) in altitude and 1 mile (1.75 kilometers)
down range. Two
minutes and 36 seconds later, the Atlas first
stage will shut down at an
altitude of about 66 miles (106
kilometers) and 184 miles (296 kilometers) down
range. The
Centaur second stage (carrying InSight inside a 40-foot-long
fairing) separates from the now-dead first stage six
seconds later. Ten seconds later, the Centaur’s engine
in with its 22,890 pounds (101,820 newtons) of thrust, which
will carry
it and InSight into its 115-mile-high
(185-kilometer) parking orbit 13 minutes
and 16 seconds after
launch. This parking orbit will last 59 to 66 minutes,
depending on the date and time of the launch. The Centaur will
then re-ignite
for one last burn at one hour and 19 minutes
after launch, placing InSight into
a Mars-bound interplanetary
trajectory. Spacecraft separation from the Centaur
will occur
about 93 minutes after liftoff for the first May 5 launch
opportunity as the spacecraft is approximately over the
Alaska-Yukon region.

InSight’s launch
period is May 5 through June 8, 2018, with
multiple launch opportunities over
windows of approximately
two hours each date. Launch opportunities are set five
apart during each date’s window.

Additional information on viewing the launch in person is

Live televised coverage of the launch will be available

Whichever date the launch occurs, InSight’s landing on Mars is
planned for Nov. 26, 2018, around noon PST (3 p.m. EST / 20:00

NASA’s Interior
Exploration using Seismic Investigations,
Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight)
lander will study
the deep interior of Mars to learn how all
rocky planets
formed, including Earth and its moon. The lander’s instruments
include a seismometer to detect marsquakes and a probe that
will monitor the flow of heat in the planet’s subsurface.

NASA’ s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California,
manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission
InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the
agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The InSight
spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was
built and tested by Lockheed
Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s
Launch Services
Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center
in Florida provides launch
management. United Launch Alliance
of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch
service provider of
the Atlas 5 rocket. A
number of European partners, including
France’s Centre National d’Études
Spatiales (CNES) and the
German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the

more information about InSight, visit:

News Media Contact

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

JoAnna Wendel
NASA Headquarters, Washington


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