Having an Antonov AN-124 Ruslan, one of the largest cargo airplanes in the world (only the Antonov An-225 Mriya is bigger) is a key part of this operation. This photo above, taken from a distance, shows perfectly how huge the Ruslan really is.
Look at the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 stage—about 60 meters long, or nearly 200 feet—on the right side. It has just offloaded from the plane on the left. (The photo was shot at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on November 21, 2015.)
The Atlas rocket will launch NASA’s InSight mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, another perfect NASA acronym) next year. InSight will study processes that formed and shaped Mars, in order to improve our understanding about the evolution of our inner solar system’s rocky planets.