InSight has Landed on Mars and here are the first clear images

InSight has Landed on Mars and here are the first clear images

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is all set to explore the deep interior of Mars.

NASA’s InSight lander finally hit the Martian soil on 26th of November after a long journey of 7 months. It covered a distance of about 485 million kilometers on this trip. The primary objective of this mission is to study the deep interior of the red planet in order to improve our understanding of the rocky celestial bodies. The launch of InSight was executed earlier this year on 5th of May from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The descent of the lander kept the engineering team at the edge of their seats, for the final few minutes, as the spacecraft deployed its parachute and fired 12 descent engines to slow itself down. Jim Bridenstine, an Administrator of NASA, was delighted on this occasion and expressed his views by saying,

Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history. InSight will study the interior of Mars and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars. This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team. The best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon.

As soon as InSight landed, it began the procedure for the first objective of the mission. It created a direct-to-Earth signal indicating that its solar panels are open and working. This means that the power source of the lander is in place and it can charge its batteries on a daily basis.

The Mars Odyssey Orbiter of NASA relayed these signals. Similarly, the team of InSight also received a couple of images of the Elysium Planitia, the landing site. The MarCO CubeSats, which followed the lander to Mars, sent the landing signal to the authorities on Earth in only 8 minutes. Tom Hoffman, the Project Manager of InSight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), seemed both happy and relieved as he said,

We hit the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph (19,800 kilometers per hour), and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes. During that short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform dozens of operations and do them flawlessly — and by all indications that is exactly what our spacecraft did. The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries. It’s been a long day for the team. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase.

View of Mars from Insight lander

Both the solar arrays of InSight are each 7 feet wide which allows the lander to create sufficient power for itself despite weaker sunlight on Mars (in comparison to Earth). Having said that, InSight doesn’t need a lot of power to operate. The engineers of the mission claim that these solar panels can create up to 600-700 watts on a clear day. What makes it even more impressive is that this lander can produce at least 200 to 300 watts when the panels are covered with dust. Scientists took a lead from the panels of Phoenix Mars Lander for developing InSight’s. In order to improve the structural strength and power output of the lander, the panels of InSight are slightly larger than the older spacecraft.

Once the activation of solar panels is complete, the team plans to set up the rest of the instruments in an effort to capture more images. They will begin with the two cameras aboard the lander. One of them is mounted on the arm of InSight and will help engineers to examine the happenings on the lander. Secondly, a wide-angle camera is positioned underneath its body, which will determine the place to deploy the instruments.

Watch the full gallery HERE!

After that, the deployment of the seismometer (SEIS), the instrument responsible for measuring ‘Marsquakes’, will be initiated. Lastly, InSight will set up the HP3 heat probe to determine the temperature of the red planet. Bruce Banerdt, the Principal Investigator of InSight, explained the process in the following words:

When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments. Within two or three months, the arm will deploy the mission’s main science instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instruments.

Computer Scientist by qualification who loves to read, write, eat, and travel

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