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.
Liftoff of the spacecraft is targeted for May 5!
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 Space.com, 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 Space.com.