Two CubeSats, or miniature satellites about the size of a briefcase, were launched by the same rocket, basically hitching a ride with the Insight.
"I've been to several rocket launches, but it is a whole different vibe when there is something you've been working on for years sitting in the nose cone waiting to get hurled beyond our atmosphere", said Bruce Banerdt, the mission's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"MarCO-A and B are our first and second interplanetary CubeSats created to monitor InSight for a short period around landing, if the MarCO pair makes it to Mars", said Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division. Only about 40 per cent of all missions to Mars from all countries - orbiters and landers alike - have proven successful over the decades.
NASA's Mars InSight lander has launched on top of a ULA Atlas V rocket and is a historic launch in several ways. It will be NASA's first deep-space mission sent from the West Coast.
"Previous missions to Mars have 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 - its building blocks - which can only be found by looking far below the surface". An hour later, the 360-kg spacecraft was put on a direct path towards Mars: It is expected to land on the Red Planet's surface on November 26, after covering about 300 million miles.
Unlike our active Earth, Mars has not been transformed by plate tectonics and other processes, he said.
The Mars In Sight probe in artist's rendition operating on the surface of Mars is due to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base
This data will then be used to compare with Earth's to help explain how the planets were formed 4.5bn years ago.
Scientists will try to use the frequent marsquakes over the course of the mission to deduce the depth, density and composition of the planet's core. After a 65-minute coast, the Centaur fired again to inject the InSight spacecraft onto a Mars-bound trajectory. California was always part of the plan.
Research by university scientists in Britain to study Marsquakes on the Red Planet was given a boost Saturday with the lift off of a space rocket from California.
NASA normally flies from Cape Canaveral, Florida, but made a decision to switch coasts for InSight because of a smaller rocket backlog.
NASA's new administrator Jim Bridenstine, who has been in the job for less than two weeks, observed the launch on monitors at space agency headquarters in Washington.
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