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NASA’s InSight Captures New Images on Mars

More images from InSight's arm were scheduled to come down this past weekend. However, imaging was momentarily interrupted, resuming the following day

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Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12. Flickr
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After the successful touchdown of NASA’s InSight on Mars last week, new images from the lander show its robotic arm is ready to do some lifting.

With a reach of nearly 6 feet (2 metres), the arm will be used to pick up science instruments from the lander’s deck, gently setting them on the Martian surface at Elysium Planitia, the lava plain where InSight touched down on November 26.

But first, the arm will use its Instrument Deployment Camera, located on its elbow, to take photos of the terrain in front of the lander, the space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

These images will help mission team members determine where to set InSight’s seismometer and heat flow probe — the only instruments ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet, it added.

“Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

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“By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.”

Another camera, called the Instrument Context Camera, is located under the lander’s deck. It will also offer views of the workspace, though the view won’t be as pretty.

“We had a protective cover on the Instrument Context Camera, but somehow dust still managed to get onto the lens,” said JPL’s Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager.

“While this is unfortunate, it will not affect the role of the camera, which is to take images of the area in front of the lander where our instruments will eventually be placed.”

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Over the past week and a half, mission engineers have been testing those instruments and spacecraft systems, ensuring they were in working order.

More images from InSight’s arm were scheduled to come down this past weekend. However, imaging was momentarily interrupted, resuming the following day.

Spacecraft engineers had already factored extra time into their estimates for instrument deployment to account for likely delays caused by faults. The mission’s primary mission is scheduled for two Earth years, or one Mars year. (IANS)

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Rocket Lab is Set To Launch 10 NASA CubeSats

They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space

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Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday. Pixabay

In its first mission for NASA, the American aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab is set to launch 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, from New Zealand, the US space agency said.

Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch on December 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The CubeSats were built by three NASA centres, seven universities, and a middle school under the NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or (ELaNa-19) mission.

ElaNa-19 is NASA’s first to be completely dedicated to launching CubeSats under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program for small-satellite launches.

More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12. Flickr

“The major difference between today’s launch and previous #ELaNa missions is that for the first time, NASA will have a launch completely dedicated to CubeSats rather than having the small satellites ride along with a much larger spacecraft that is the primary mission,” NASA Launch Services Program officials wrote on Twitter on December 12.

The 10 CubeSats are named as CubeSail, CeREs, NMTSat, CHOMPTT, ALBus, STF-1, ISX, RSat, Shields-1 and DaVinci, NASA said.

These are built to standard dimensions of one unit (1U), and can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size. They generally weigh less than 1.33 kg per U — 6U may be up to 12 kg.

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They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space.

After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status.

CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, NASA noted. (IANS)