NASA InSIght Deploys First Instrument on Mars

SEIS instrument lowered on the Martian surface 1 photo
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
InSight is perhaps the most important machine sent by humans to Mars. Unlike the rovers already there, which are used to learn a thing or two about the planet’s surface, the InSight lander will give us a more in-depth look at the inner workings of a palce we might soon call a second home.
After landing in the Elysium Planitia region in November, scientists have been hard at work trying to get all the lander’s instruments in working order. Of the array of systems that will be used to look for quakes, perturbations of Mars' rotation axis, and information about the planet's core or the amount of heat escaping from underneath, only one was until this week up and running.

The Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), which does not need complicated deployment of hardware, already began collecting preliminary data about the planet’s core, with the first tangible results expected in about a year's time.

Following a series of simulations conducted back on Earth with an identical lander called ForeSight, NASA decided on December 18 to command the InSight to deploy one crucial instrument, the seismometer called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

One day later, the hardware was lowered onto the planet surface, directly in front of the lander and at a distance of 5.3 feet (1.6 meters). Because SEIS was placed tilted at about 2 to 3 degrees, commands to right it will be sent in the coming days. After that, a wind and thermal shield will be placed around it to protect it from the elements.

"Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars," said in a statement InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt.

"The seismometer is the highest-priority instrument on InSight: We need it in order to complete about three-quarters of our science objectives."

NASA expects the first data from SEIS will be sent back to Earth as soon as the instrument is in the right position.

After all the issues with SEIS are solved, another important instrument, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, will be next.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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