The Mars InSight planetary probe. Source: NASA

NASA awarded the Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) joint venture "United Launch Services LLC" (ULS) a $160 million contract for a mission to Mars Thursday.

As explained by NASA in a press release, the "Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport" (InSight) mission will launch aboard a ULS Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch is scheduled for March 2016, with an expected arrival date on Mars in September 2016.

Once arrived, InSight will begin a two-year science mission investigating "the interior structure and processes of Mars to understand better the evolution of rocky planets such as Earth."

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