Lompoc is waking up early, really early, on May 5 to welcome travelers who want to see the launch of NASA-JPL’s latest mission to Mars spacecraft. It’s the first time the space agency will launch a spacecraft to another planet from the West Coast.
The rocket-driven Mars InSight lander, which is expected to dig deep into the surface of the Red Planet, is set to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base and create a streak in the sky that will be visible from Santa Maria to San Diego.
It’s scheduled to take off at 4 a.m. May 5, about nine miles from the town of Lompoc, and land on Mars on Nov. 26.
One big caveat: Launch times and dates can be squishy, depending on weather or technical concerns. The InSight lander could blast off anywhere from May 5 through June 8, with launch windows that last two hours each day, according to NASA’s website.
(InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.)
The Lompoc Airport (1801 N. H St.) and the parking lot at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (2800 Harris Grade Road) will open at 2:30 a.m. to welcome visitors. The sites are free and open to the public. In addition, members of the NASA/InSight team will appear at both sites to answer questions.
Prior to the launch, the Mars InSight Roadshow is coming to museums and public spaces from Sacramento to Santa Barbara with hands-on science activities, exhibits, models and public talks about the mission that will study the deep interior of Mars.
The show is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. May 2 at the Dick DeWees Community & Senior Center, 1120 W. Ocean Ave. Talks and exhibits will be held 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Lompoc Public Library at 510 E. North Ave.; and 1 to 8 p.m. May 4 at the Allan Hancock College, Main Campus, 800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria.
If you not traveling to Lompoc for the blastoff, find a high point in Southern California where there’s not a lot of artificial light. NASA gives these suggested spots, which include Figueroa Mountain in Los Padres National Forest.
Info: Mars InSight Mission