NASA’s InSight Will Have Reduced Capability Until a Dust Devil Cleans off its Solar Panels

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

All eyes are on Mars this week, and, if we’re being honest, NASA’s InSight lander isn’t the star of the show right now. At the time of writing, we’re anxiously waiting to find out whether or not the Perseverance rover survives its fiery arrival at Mars. But Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) is just the first hazard that awaits robotic missions to the red planet. Mars exploration is a marathon, not a sprint, and while Perseverance is just getting started, InSight, which has been on the red planet for two years now, is approaching a tough leg of the race.

InSight’s nemesis: Martian dust. The same cruel villain that killed the Opportunity rover back in 2018.

Continue reading “NASA’s InSight Will Have Reduced Capability Until a Dust Devil Cleans off its Solar Panels”

InSight Has Already Detected 21 Marsquakes

NASA's SEIS instrument on the Martian surface. SEIS is protected by a dome. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) instrument on NASA’s InSight lander has sensed 21 Marsquakes since it was deployed on December 19th, 2018. It actually sensed over 100 events to date, but only 21 of them have been identified as Marsquakes. SEIS is extremely sensitive so mission scientists expected these results.

SEIS is a key part of InSight, NASA’s mission to understand the interior of Mars. Along with other instruments, it’ll help scientists understand what’s going on inside Mars.

Continue reading “InSight Has Already Detected 21 Marsquakes”

InSight Uses its Seismometer to “Hear” the Sound of Wind on Mars

One of two Mars InSight's 7-foot (2.2 meter) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander's Instrument Deployment Camera, which is fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Just two weeks ago, NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander touched down on the surface of Mars. In the hours that followed, mission controllers at NASA-JPL received confirmation that the lander had deployed its solar arrays and was commencing scientific operations.

And in what was sure to be a treat for space exploration enthusiasts, the lander recently provided the first ever experience of what it “sounds” like to be on Mars. The sounds were caught by an air pressure sensor inside the lander and the seismometer instrument that is awaiting deployment to the surface. Together, they recorded the low rumble caused by Martian winds that blew around the lander’s location on Dec. 1st.

Continue reading “InSight Uses its Seismometer to “Hear” the Sound of Wind on Mars”

2016 Launch of NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Postponed Due to Instrument Vacuum Leak

This artist's concept depicts the InSight lander on Mars after the lander's robotic arm has deployed a seismometer and a heat probe directly onto the ground. InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. The findings will advance understanding of how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved. NASA approved a new launch date in May 2018. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA managers have just made the difficult but unavoidable decision to scrub the planned March 2016 launch of the InSight lander, the agency’s next mission to Mars, by at least two years because of a vacuum leak that was just detected in the probes flawed seismometer instrument which cannot be fixed in time.

The leak, if uncorrected, would render the probe useless to carry out the unprecedented scientific research foreseen to measure the planets seismic activity and sense for “Marsquakes” to determine the nature of the Red Planets’ deep interior. Continue reading “2016 Launch of NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Postponed Due to Instrument Vacuum Leak”