A rocket bound for Mars blasted off early Saturday, marking NASA's first journey to the red planet in six years, in a mission that is expected to last nearly six months.
United Launch Alliance launched NASA's InSight lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ULA – the rocket-building joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin – used an Atlas V rocket to lift the spacecraft off the Earth's surface and send it on its way to the red planet.
The InSight lander (an acronym, meaning "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport") is on a two-year mission to drill into the surface of Mars to study the planet's crust.
All three parts of the Insight spacecraft – cruise stage, heat-absorbing shell and lander – were built by Lockheed. Once InSight reaches Mars, the it will disconnect from the cruise stage and begin entering the atmosphere.