NASA has launched a new probe to Mars -- here are all the dramatic pictures of the rocket blasting into space

NASAA composite image showing the moment of ignition on the Atlas 5 rocket carrying InSight to Mars, and a NASA-generated visualisation of the rocket in flight.
  • NASA’s InSight mission to Mars got off to a successful start Saturday morning.
  • An Atlas 5 rocket bearing the InSight lander took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at around 4 a.m. local time.
  • Video footage from the NASA launchpad, and some from a passing plane, gave an impressive view of the launch.
  • InSight is expected to take six months to reach Mars, where it will probe beneath the surface for new data.

NASA launched a robotic space lander bound for Mars on Saturday morning, beginning a journey to explore the deep interior of the red planet.

The InSight probe was carried into orbit from a launch site in California at around 4:05 a.m. local time.

An Atlas 5 rocket sent the probe hurtling towards Mars, a voyage which is expected to take around six months.

The early stages of the mission appeared to go off without a hitch at Vandenberg Air Force Base. A NASA video feed showed the rocket taking off, though the foggy, pre-dawn conditions made for a less spectacular launch than other space missions.

Here’s what the Atlas rocket looked like at the moment of ignition:

Insight blast off Mars NASANASAIgnition on the Atlas 5 rocket carrying InSight to Mars.

Not long after, it disappeared into the clouds, but was followed into the sky by black and white camera footage:

InSight Mars probe black and whiteNASA

However, a group of people flying overhead in a regular plane managed to take a video of the rocket bursting through the clouds, which was posted to Instagram:

A video camera mounted on the side of the rocket showed a different view:

Insight side mounted camera Mars NASANASA

After the rocket went beyond camera range, NASA telemetry data generated an impression of how the lander looks look travelling above the earth.

The pointed nose cone, known as a payload fairing, was jettisoned once it reached the appropriate altitude, exposing the InSight lander itself:

Insight probe visualisationNASAAn animation of the InSight probe above the earth, generated with NASA telemetry data. Its flight path south of California is visible in the bottom-right.

The mission is the first interplanetary spacecraft to be launched over the Pacific.

The craft is bound for a broad plain near the Martian equator, the Elysium Planitia, where the InSight lander will attempt to push a probe below the surface of Mars to gather data on its interior.

Here is a NASA animation showing how the probe, which can extend up to 16 feet, is expected to work:

InSight probe below surface NASA MarsNASA

NASA hopes the data will help it work out the depth, density and composition of the various layers of the planet, including the crust, mantle and core.

You can watch the entire launch back, with commentary from NASA staff and experts, here:

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