Speed Reads

Space is cool

NASA is returning to Mars for the first time since the Curiosity rover landed in 2012

Mars, ho! It has been over half a decade since the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars' distant rust-colored surface in 2012, but at long last NASA is returning to the red planet with InSight, set to launch this weekend, The Associated Press reports. The spacecraft will be the first to study the deep interiors of Mars, including the planet's mysterious tremors known as "marsquakes."

InSight isn't making its six-month journey alone: Shortly after launch, two small satellites will break off and propel themselves behind InSight all the way to Mars. The satellites are nicknamed WALL-E and EVE, after the Pixar characters from the 2008 movie, and they will test a communication link with InSight when it lands on Nov. 26.

Once InSight touches down, the 1,530-pound craft will remain stationary, drilling about 16 feet into the planet. "[W]e have never probed sort of beneath the outermost skin of the planet," Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told AP.

Want to send InSight off? Californians along the coast will be able to see the predawn flight Saturday morning at 4:05 a.m. local time. Read more about InSight, WALL-E, and EVE at The Associated Press, and learn more about the launch below. Jeva Lange