The Mars exploration exhibition has a new robot and its name matches the mission as NASA’s InSight spacecraft is gearing up to give scientist’s “insight” into the Red Planet’s interior as it studies the Martian underworld.

Sticking the landing

Excitement filled the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory last November when the InSight spacecraft sent back confirmation of its safe arrival on Mars’ surface. After launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California six months earlier, InSight travelled 300 million miles and landed flawlessly on the Red Planet in what NASA engineers and scientists are calling “a nail-biting descent.”

Traditionally, Florida’s Space Coast is the launching pad for such voyages; however, this was the first interplanetary mission lift-off from the West Coast of the United States. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is the ninth lander in history to be sent for Mars exploration by the United States.

Robotics in motion

InSight is equipped with a robotic arm that will lift a dome-shaped package containing seismometers and a heat probe up from the main deck of the spacecraft and on to the surface of Mars. These instruments will burrow about 16 feet down into the planet’s interior structure, where the seismometers will measure surface movements and produce sonograms of its interior.

Vaughn College has a keen interest in mechatronic engineering and the development of robotic equipment, having set the stage for excellence in robotics. Its robotics team earned the world championship title in the 2016 VEX Worlds Robotics Competition and placed among the top three in the world in the 2017 and 2018 competitions.

Unlike temblors caused by plate tectonics found on Earth, Martian temblors are generated when crust cracks due to the cooling and shrinking of the planet’s interior. This groundbreaking mission, no pun intended, is extraordinary since the interior of Mars has been basically frozen in place since it formed almost 4.5 billion years ago. That’s billion with a ‘b’! Scientists are hopeful to record anywhere between 10-to-12 marsquakes over the next two years.

Hitching a ride

The InSight spacecraft wasn’t alone on its rocket ride last year. Two CubeSats―or miniature satellites―named MarCo-A and MarCo-B, hitched a ride for their own Mars exploration mission to show how tiny spacecraft can explore deep space. This new technology tested flawlessly as NASA scientists stated the MarCo duo was instrumental in the landing, having been able to relay data from the InSight spacecraft to mission control.

Fun fact: CubeSats are no strangers to orbiting the Earth. In fact, hundreds have been launched in recent years, although the InSight spacecraft mission marks the first interplanetary voyage for the identical satellite spacecrafts.

Mission possible

Over the next two years, the InSight spacecraft will have an unprecedented look at the interior structure and composition of Mars as it listens for marsquakes and tremors while collecting data. These findings will help scientists understand how Mars and other rocky planets like Earth formed, and could also serve as a time machine to give scientists a glimpse at what Earth may have looked like tens of millions of years after it formed.

Robotics at Vaughn College

Are you interested in learning more about robotics? Vaughn’s mechatronic engineering degree program can prepare you for an exciting future in robotics and may even set you on a trajectory to discovering possibilities that are out of this world.

Whether you’re studying to become a pilot, pursuing engineering, or dreaming of working in airport/airline management, it’s safe to say that Vaughn College students have a passion for aviation and the mechanics that go into it. We’re proud to say that our students have a thirst for knowledge and are obsessed with becoming the best they can be.

The exploration of this dynamic field doesn’t have to stop when you step out of the classroom! We love that our students want to continue exploring their passion on their own time. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of fun aviation-inspired activities to take part in on the weekends:

Visit the Cradle of Aviation

Cradle of Aviation

Take a trip to Garden City, New York, and visit the impressive Cradle of Aviation Museum. Here, you’ll find more than 75 air and space crafts, 12 cockpits, and 30 hands-on exhibits, including a hot air balloon and even an actual Apollo Lunar Module. In addition, the Cradle of Aviation hosts several events every month. You can throw it back to the ‘80s by taking part in their ’80s Arcade and Karaoke Night, or indulge your sweet tooth and attend the 2019 Chocolate Expo―all while surrounded by inspiring aviation history.

Catch a Blue Angels Show


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Having the pleasure of going to a United States Navy Blue Angels show is nothing short of a privilege. With over 70 years of demonstrations, the flying aerobatics are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The flight demonstration squadron is comprised of a total of 16 officers. The aviation team consists of tactical jet pilots, support officers, and Marine Corps C-130 pilots. The Blue Angels travel the country throughout the year. Visit their website to view the complete show schedule for 2019.

Join the Manhattan Flight Club

Manhattan Flight Club

Forget “Fight Club.” Why not join the Manhattan Flight Club? If you can’t wait to get back in the cockpit, head on down to Madison Avenue and join this robust community of pilots, students, CFIs, ATPs, passengers, and just plain lovers of aviation. The members of this flight simulation club believe “that flying creates better people, stronger communities, and a happier world.” (And we couldn’t agree more.) Non-members can book time in The Sim Lab for just $40 an hour.

Indoor Skydiving


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If you prefer flying planes to jumping out of them but have always been interested in skydiving, then bodyflight is for you! At iFLY Indoor Sky Diving, we offer the bodyflight indoor skydiving experience—one of the most exciting, fastest-growing sports in the world. In addition, iFLY offers the option to add a little aviation fantasy to your trip with their virtual reality (VR)  “ experience. This fully immersive, highly exhilarating experience is perfect for the inner child in you — and it’s the closest thing the “Game of Thrones” fan in you will get to riding a dragon. First-time flyers can buy two flights for about $90.

Experience a Zero Gravity Weightless Experience


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While this is one of the pricier aviation adventures on our list, the ZERO-G Experience® is also one of the most exciting. This is NOT a simulation. You’ll actually get to experience true weightlessness. You’ll get to take flight on their specially modified Boeing 727, where parabolic arcs are performed to create a weightless environment, allowing you to float, flip and soar as if you were in space. The ZERO-G Experience® will be coming to Newark Liberty International Airport on May 25, August 3 and September 28 of 2019.

Make the most of your weekends and school breaks. Go on a #VaughnAdventure today.