Video: InSight blasts off through the fog

Credit: NASA TV

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket took off Saturday from California with the InSight spacecraft heading for Mars.

The 188-foot-tall (57-meter) Atlas 5 launcher lifted off powered by an RD-180 main engine at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT; 1105 GMT) Saturday, heading south-southeast from Vandenberg Air Force Base, a military facility on the Pacific coast northwest of Los Angeles.

Three NASA spacecraft were aboard the rocket, with the InSight Mars lander cocooned inside the Atlas 5’s payload shroud, and two CubeSats riding piggyback, set to become the first CubeSats to fly in deep space.

InSight and the two Mars Cube One secondary payloads separated from the Atlas 5’s Centaur upper stage more than an hour-and-a-half after liftoff, after the rocket dispatched the spacecraft with enough speed to escape Earth’s gravitational grip.

The InSight spacecraft is due to reach Mars on Nov. 26, wrapping up a 301-million-mile (485-million-kilometer) journey with a fiery descent into the Martian atmosphere. InSight will fire braking rockets to settle on a broad equatorial plain, kicking off a two-year mission listening for marsquakes and measuring the Red Planet’s internal temperature.

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