About InSight's Launch

InSight is scheduled to launch under pre-dawn skies from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California in May 2018.

The mission's launch period is May 5 through June 8, 2018, with daily launch windows that last two hours per day. Launch opportunities are set five minutes apart during each date's launch window. The first opportunity begins at 4:05 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on May 5.

InSight will launch from Launch Complex 3 and ride atop an Atlas V-401 rocket provided by United Launch Alliance, Centennial Colorado, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Atlas V is one of the biggest rockets available for interplanetary flight. This is the same type of rocket that launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005.

Why InSight Launches from California

InSight will be the first mission to another planet to leave Earth from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Missions to other planets normally launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center and fly east, over water. That's because launching towards the east adds the momentum of Earth's eastward rotation to the launch vehicle's own thrust. But the Atlas V-401 is powerful enough to fly south towards the sea from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Besides, Vandenberg Air Force Base is more available at this time to accommodate InSight's six-week launch window.

The launch is only the beginning; the trip to Mars takes about six months. The journey is about 301 million miles (485 million kilometers).

No matter at what particular time and date InSight launches during its launch windows, its date with Mars is set for Nov. 26, 2018.