NASA’s next Mars lander passes key test ahead of May launch

LITTLETON, Colo. — NASA’s next Mars mission — a lander designed to probe the Red Planet’s deep interior and eavesdrop on rumbling Marsquakes — is reaching «ship and shoot» status.

As spacecraft names go, this one’s is a mouthful: Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. That has been mercifully shortened to InSight.

A wonderful moment came early Tuesday morning (Jan. 23) for Barbara and me here at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which built InSight for NASA: the unfurling of the lander’s solar arrays. [The Mars Insight Mission in Pictures]

Technicians took great care in monitoring the deployment of the solar panels. That process was part of the late-stage testing campaign ahead of InSight’s departure to its launch site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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