Early on May 5 at 4:05 PDT, the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is scheduled to be launched atop a 189-ft-tall United Alliance Atlas V rocket to study the structure of the red planet Mars.

About Atlas V

Atlas V is an expendable launch system. It is developed by Lockheed Martin Commercial Services was initially intended for the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. Initially, Lockheed Martin was operating the later, but now it is operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture with Boeing. 

Timeline of successful missions of Atlas V rocket

Since the commencement of its operation in 2002, Atlas V has more than 75 launches; few notable ones are briefed below: –

  • The rocket’s first launch of the rocket took place on 21 August 2002 where it successfully lofted the Eutelsat Hot Bird Broadcast satellite built by into orbit.
  • On 12 August 2005, Atlas V performed its first launch interplanetary launch for NASA. The rocket hefted the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The multipurpose spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin was designed to explore the Mars from orbit. As of April 2018, the spacecraft is still in operation. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been credited for sending images of possible water streaks in craters, tracking Martian weather and changes in its surface, and also finding past and present landers.
  • On 19 January 2006, Atlas V lifted off the NASA’s Pluto-Bound New Horizons probe. The spacecraft successfully flew by the planet in 2015 en route an object in the Kuiper belt for a flyby in early 2019.
  • On 5 August 2011, Juno spacecraft was launched aboard Atlas V to investigate the planet Jupiter.
  • On 26 November 2011, Atlas V has lifted the Curiosity Rover. The spacecraft found extensive evidence of past liquid on the Mars surface.
  • On 18 November 2013, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) was launched aboard the launching system to investigate the atmosphere loss from Mars which could explain the reason behind the absence of vast streams of running water today which were evident in the geological record.
  • On 6 December 2015, the launch system lifted a 16,517-pound Cygnus resupply craft, its heaviest payload to date into orbit. The automated cargo spacecraft developed by Orbital ATK transported supplies to the International Space Station.
  • On 8 September 2016, Atlas V lofted NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). Its mission is to study the 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid and return a sample to Earth on 24 September 2023 for detailed analysis. The material returned is expected to help scientists learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar system.