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NASA launches InSight lander toward Mars

NASA launches InSight lander toward MarsIn a first for the West Coast, an Atlas 5 rocket boosted a robotic Mars lander into space Saturday, the first step in a six-and-a-half month voyage to the red planet for a two-year, $1 billion mission to monitor marsquakes, probe the temperature of the core and map the planet's hidden interior.

With heavy fog blanketing Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles, the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5's first stage engine thundered to life at 4:05 a.m. PT (GMT-7; 7:05 a.m. ET), throttled up to full thrust and quickly pushed the 20-story-tall booster away from pad 3-East atop 860,000 pounds of thrust.

It was the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast, but fog blocked the view for spectators near the launch site as the rocket climbed away to the south over the Pacific Ocean. Long-range cameras, however, captured spectacular views as the rocket streaked away, trailing a brilliant plume of fiery exhaust.

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