Saturday, February, 16, 2019 07:07:45
  • Supposedly, InSight lander would be operating for at least one Martian year, which is about two years on Earth.
  • The mission team will be tracking InSight’s location precisely during this time, via the communication gear of the lander.

NASA’s InSight lander, which had landed on Mars in late November, has reportedly deployed its supersensitive seismometer onto the planet’s surface on 19 December. Sources close to the matter say this has happened earlier than expected, as the mission team members had suggested, just after landing, that they would not be ready to begin deploying the instrument for about two to three months.

Project manager for InSight Tom Hoffman, who is based out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA in Pasadena, California, said the timetable of activities for InSight on Mars has gone better than the team had hoped.

The InSight mission, which has cost about $850 million, is aimed at mapping Mars’ interior in unprecedented detail, to gain knowledge about the formation and evolution of rocky planets, the sources mentioned. The name InSight is short form of Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

Apparently, the lander would perform its functions using two primary scientific instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which is the seismometer, and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3), which is a burrowing tool. Detecting Marsquakes is a key target for the seismometer, for understanding how the quakes work.

Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator for the mission stated that they need the seismometer to complete nearly 75 percent of their science objectives. The sources informed that the mission team had practiced deployment of the instrument using a testbed lander known as ForeSight at JPL. SEIS was sitting on 2 to 3 degree slope and the team would try to level it, before it begins hunting seismic waves.

This study is expected to reveal how much the red planet is wobbling on its axis, helping scientists in understanding the plant’s core better.