NASA has launched a mission to try and find out how Mars was created.
The 300-million mile trip to the red planet kicked off at the weekend, to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of Mars.
Lifting off at 7:05am Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the mission is named Mars InSight, the latter of which stands for: Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.
"The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet's core and geological processes," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a NASA news release.
"As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable."
First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.
With its successful launch, NASA's InSight team is now focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft's subsystems and science instruments, make sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, track its trajectory and perform manoeuvres to keep it on course.
InSight is scheduled to land on Mars around 3pm EST on 26 November this year, where it will conduct science operations for two whole years.
The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet's interior and the way the planet 'wobbles', to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.
"InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars," added Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
"InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners."
Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet's earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface, according to NASA.
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