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First Instruments from NASA’s InSight Gets Placed on Mars

In the coming days, the InSight team will work on levelling the seismometer. The first seismometer science data will flow back to Earth

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NASA, Insight, Martian Wind
This is an illustration showing a simulated view of NASA's InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars. This view shows the underside of the spacecraft. VOA

NASA’s InSight lander has deployed its first instrument onto the surface of Mars, marking the first time a seismometer had ever been placed onto the surface of another planet.

New images from the lander showed the seismometer on the ground, its copper-coloured covering faintly illuminated in the Martian dusk, according to the InSight team on Thursday.

“InSight’s timetable of activities on Mars has gone better than we hoped,” said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman, who is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Xinhua reported.

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

The InSight team has been working carefully toward deploying its two dedicated science instruments onto Martian soil since landing on Mars on November 26. Besides the seismometer, also known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the other one is the heat probe, known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3).

InSight, Mars, NASA, Martian Wind
InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars. VOA

Meanwhile, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), which does not have its own separate instrument, has already begun using InSight’s radio connection with Earth to collect preliminary data on the planet’s core, said the InSight team.

To ensure the successful deployment of the instruments, engineers had to verify the robotic arm that picks up and places InSight’s instruments onto the Martian surface was working properly.

They also had to analyze images of the Martian terrain around the lander to figure out the best places to deploy the instruments, said the team.

InSight engineers sent up the commands to the spacecraft on Tuesday, and the seismometer was gently placed onto the ground by the arm in front of the lander on Wednesday, according to the team.

“Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt.

NASA, Insight, Martian Wind
NASA’s InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region in Mars’ northern hemisphere, undergoes launch preparations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. VOA

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

The seismometer allows scientists to peer into the Martian interior by studying ground motion, also known as marsquakes. By analyzing how seismic waves pass through the layers of the planet, scientists can deduce the depth and composition of these layers.

Also Read: NASA Photographs Mars InSight Lander From Space

In the coming days, the InSight team will work on levelling the seismometer. The first seismometer science data will flow back to Earth after the seismometer is in the right position, said the team.

The heat probe is scheduled to be placed onto the Martian surface by late January, on the east side of the lander’s work space, according to the team.

InSight landed safely on Mars on November 26, kicking off a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet. (VOA)

Next Story

Building City on Mars Could Cost up to $10 Trillion: Elon Musk

SpaceX is building “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars

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Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Wikimedia Commons

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has not stopped at lofty talks of colonising Mars. He has even estimated the cost of having a self-sustaining civilization on the Red Planet which is “between $100 billion and $10 trillion”.

Musk tweeted his estimates of building a city on Mars in response to a question posed by the Twitter handle @marstronauts.

So according to the estimate by Musk, building a city on Mars could cost anywhere between 10 per cent of the US’ 2019 military budget and three times the the country’s 2018 tax revenue, Futurism.com reported on Tuesday.

Musk calculated the approximate future cost of sending a minimum payload to Mars “to nearest order of magnitude”, at $100,000 per tonne.

Musk, Neuralink, Brain
Not many people know that Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk owns a startup called Neuralink that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces. Pixabay

So if building a self-sustaining city on Mars requires a million tonnes of cargo, the cost would be around $100 billion, he calculated.

Musk earlier advocated the need of a “backup” planet.

Also Read: OnePlus to Launch Smart TV Named ”OnePlus TV”

Speaking in an interview with Axios in November 2018, Musk said that that there is “70 per cent chance that he will go to Mars”, despite a “good chance” of him not surviving either on the way or after landing.

SpaceX is building “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars. (IANS)