IMAGE: Artist’s concept of InSight lander on surface of Mars. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Let’s come back to our own solar system and talk about another mission to the red planet, NASA’s InSight. We’ve been calling it that for so long now that even I have forgotten it’s an acronym — Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. This mission is designed to search for answers about the interior structure of Mars and the planet’s formation/evolution, plus gather data on tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.
InSight was launched in May 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base here in California. It took six months to get to Mars and landed on November 26. Upon landing, InSight had to unfurl all its solar panels, which are two fan-like discs on either side of the lander. Then all the other instruments had to be checked out and tested, pictures of the landing site were taken, and it took about ten weeks before the real science began.
One of those instruments is a seismometer named SEIS, for Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure because everything needs an acronym. Atop the instrument is a protective dome to spare the instrument the effects of wind and temperature. ...