NASA’s InSight Lifts Its Seismometer Onto Martian Surface to Solve Red Planet’s Mysteries

This is the first instrument InSight has deployed on Mars.

InSight continues to make history on the surface of Mars.

Now, NASA has reported that its brand-new lander has successfully deployed its seismometer onto the Martian surface in a bid to finally solve the mystery behind Marsquakes.

This is the first instrument InSight has deployed on Mars.

NASA's InSight lander placed its seismometer on Mars on Dec. 19, 2018. This was the first time a seismometer had ever been placed onto the surface of another planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s InSight lander placed its seismometer on Mars on Dec. 19, 2018. This was the first time a seismometer had ever been placed onto the surface of another planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New images beamed back from the lander show the seismometer in position on the ground after it was lifted by the lander’s robotic arm.

The instrument will now attempt to record ‘waves’ traveling through the interior of the planet. Scientists hope that this will help them understand Marsquakes better, and whether or not they occur regularly on the red planet.

NASA says all systems are go and the lander is performing flawlessly.

InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman said: “InSight’s timetable of activities on Mars has gone better than we hoped.”

“Getting the seismometer safely on the ground is an awesome Christmas present.”

Ever since InSight touched down on the Martian surface, mission specialists have been working towards deploying the seismometer (also known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS) and the heat probe (also known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe, or HP3).

In order to do so, they had to first verify the functionality of the lander’s robotic arm, which is the main tool that picks up and places various instruments onto the Martian surface.

Selfie from Mars. Image Credit: NASA / InSight
Selfie from Mars. Image Credit: NASA / InSight

Furthermore, before deploying the instrument, scientists had to analyze images from the Martian landscape in order to figure out what the best positions were to deploy the instruments.

Thankfully, the InSight mission seems to be performing without any issues.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, InSight mission scientists entered new commands and sent them to the spacecraft.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the lander’s seismometer was gently placed onto the Maritan terrain directly in front of the lander, around 5.367 feet, or 1.636 meters, away.

via GIPHY

“Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars,” explained InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, based at JPL.

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

The instrument will allow scientists to better understand the interior of the planet and will allow them to monitor ground motion, aka marsquakes.

Philippe Lognonné, principal investigator of SEIS from Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and Paris Diderot University said that “Having the seismometer on the ground is like holding a phone up to your ear.”

“We’re thrilled that we’re now in the best position to listen to all the seismic waves from below Mars’ surface and from its deep interior.”

Now that the seismometer has been placed onto the Martian surface, scientists will work on leveling the instrument, since it was placed on an area tilted by 2 to 3 degrees.

After the instrument is placed in an acceptable position, it should start sending back scientific data to mission control.

“We look forward to popping some Champagne when we start to get data from InSight’s seismometer on the ground,” Banerdt added.

“I have a bottle ready for the occasion.”

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