Watch InSight’s Busy First Months on Mars

By Korey Haynes | February 5, 2019 4:18 pm
a small dome held by InSight's robotic arm on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander tucked its seismic instrument under a shield to protect it from wind and extreme temperatures. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Since InSight’s landing on Mars late last year, it’s been hard at work studying what lays beneath the surface of the Red Planet. The lander’s mission is to understand Mars’ deep interior, what it’s made of and how the planet moves. To that end, InSight has been studying the area around it, practicing its movements, and scouting the best locations to place instruments. And now, the science is kicking into gear. 

InSight’s Mission So Far

To accomplish its mission, InSight needs to place a few instruments on the surface and then monitor them. The lander has two main instruments it has to re-home: the Heat flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) and the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). The first will measure temperatures underneath Mars’ surface, while the latter will listen for subtle Mars-quakes. InSight also carries a Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), but this will remain riding piggy-back on the lander for the duration of the two-year mission.

At first, InSight was busy scouting its new home, taking pictures and talking with researchers on Earth so its team could figure out exactly where to place the various sensors. While the mission will continue long after the instruments are placed, InSight’s biggest decisions come now, as the team decides on locations and InSight uses its robotic arm to move around very delicate equipment.

The lander has been steadily relaying pictures of its activities, and enterprising redditor Konrad Iturbe has been compiling them into stop-motion gifs. Put together, the sequences illustrate the first months of InSight’s residence on Mars as it looks around and begins to build its research station.

InSight's robotic arm carrying a camera around

InSight’s first days were full of practice, making sure its cameras and robotic arm all worked as planned. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Konrad Iturbe/@konrad_it)

On December 19, InSight placed SEIS on the ground. It then spent a few weeks leveling the instrument so it was in the best possible position to record information from deep underground.

view from arm of InSight placing seismic instrument

InSight’s first big move was placing its seismic instrument in just the right spot. The view here is from the robotic arm. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Konrad Iturbe/@konrad_it)

InSight's entire mission in 4 seconds

After placing the seismic instrument, InSight had to carefully adjust its placement so it could take the best possible readings. This view is shown from the main lander camera. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Konrad Iturbe/@konrad_it)

Protecting InSight’s Instruments

More recently, InSight carefully placed a cover over the instrument. This cover protects it from Mars’ extreme temperature swings as well as from winds that might shake the delicate instrument. With this shield in place, SEIS can start taking data, and should begin returning information soon.

video of InSight placing heat shield over instrument

Most recently, InSight covered the seismic instrument with a wind and temperature shield. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Konrad Iturbe/@konrad_it)

Over the next few weeks, InSight will also place HP3, which will then take about 40 days to slowly burrow 16 feet underground to conduct its readings.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology
MORE ABOUT: mars, space exploration
  • Uncle Al

    Suppose the same Brobdingnagian total expenditure – management, studies, revisions, cancellations, de-scopings, redesigns, schedule slips, cost overruns; hardware, transportation, landing; unlimited telemetry; labor; vast cash management (taxation, vendor money laundering) – $828.8 million Official, were instead used to wire California, re The Big One. We might learn something useful.

    • OWilson

      It does seem that science is obsessed with conjectoral catastrophic predictions resulting from global warming, but blind to the catastrophes faced in the worlds actually reality.

      The damage from tsunamis, floods, earthquakes can be mitigated by effective action and wise allocation of resources, but they seem to be constantly hit by the obvious, periodic natural flooding of low lying coastal lands, earthquakes on natural fault lines. and “whoops, that was close” a week or so after an asteroid passed through the Earth’s orbit!

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