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.

More From

Liftoff of the spacecraft is targeted for May 5!

Story originally published on