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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

Technicians unfurl the InSight Mars lander's solar arrays during a key test at a Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Colorado on Jan. 23, 2018. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

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]

On the floor with InSight during the solar array test: shameless selfie! (Image credit: Leonard David)

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.

Liftoff of the spacecraft is targeted for May 5!

InSight's solar panels performed as planned during the test, NASA officials said. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

Leonard David is author of "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet," published by National Geographic. The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel series "Mars." A longtime writer for, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. This version of the story published on

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