InSight is catching rays on Mars

November 27, 2018 by Andrew Good
The Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), located on the robotic arm of NASA's InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018, the same day the spacecraft touched down on the Red Planet. The camera's transparent dust cover is still on in this image, to prevent particulates kicked up during landing from settling on the camera's lens. This image was relayed from InSight to Earth via NASA's Odyssey spacecraft, currently orbiting Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's InSight has sent signals to Earth indicating that its solar panels are open and collecting sunlight on the Martian surface. NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter relayed the signals, which were received on Earth at about 5:30 p.m. PST (8:30 p.m. EST). Solar array deployment ensures the spacecraft can recharge its batteries each day. Odyssey also relayed a pair of images showing InSight's landing site.

"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries," said Tom Hoffman, InSight's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission. "It's been a long day for the team. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase."

InSight's twin are each 7 feet (2.2 meters) wide; when they're open, the entire lander is about the size of a big 1960s convertible. Mars has weaker sunlight than Earth because it's much farther away from the Sun. But the doesn't need much to operate: The panels provide 600 to 700 watts on a clear day, enough to power a household blender and plenty to keep its instruments conducting science on the Red Planet. Even when dust covers the panels—what is likely to be a common occurrence on Mars—they should be able to provide at least 200 to 300 watts.

The panels are modeled on those used with NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, though InSight's are slightly larger in order to provide more and to increase their structural strength. These changes were necessary to support operations for one full Mars year (two Earth years).

In the coming days, the mission will unstow InSight's robotic arm and use the attached camera to snap photos of the ground so that engineers can decide where to place the spacecraft's scientific instruments. It will take two to three months before those instruments are fully deployed and sending back data.

In the meantime, InSight will use its weather sensors and magnetometer to take readings from its landing site at Elysium Planitia—its new home on Mars.

Explore further: How NASA will know when InSight touches down

Related Stories

NASA InSight landing on Mars: Milestones

November 22, 2018

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight spacecraft will blaze through the Martian atmosphere and attempt to set a lander gently on the surface of the Red Planet in less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg. InSight's entry, descent ...

Five things to know about InSight's Mars landing

November 1, 2018

Every Mars landing is a knuckle-whitening feat of engineering. But each attempt has its own quirks based on where a spacecraft is going and what kind of science the mission intends to gather.

NASA InSight team on course for Mars touchdown

November 22, 2018

NASA's Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft is on track for a soft touchdown on the surface of the Red Planet on Nov. 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving. But ...

Keeping an eye on InSight

November 23, 2018

A European antenna in Australia will soon be tracking a US mission currently preparing to land on Mars.

Recommended for you

Video: Enjoying the Geminids from above and below

December 14, 2018

On the night of December 13, into the morning of December 14, 2018, tune into the night sky for a dazzling display of fireballs. Thanks to the International Space Station, this sky show – the Geminids meteor shower—will ...

Mars InSight lander seen in first images from space

December 14, 2018

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight's exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful ...

Preparing for discovery with NASA's Parker Solar Probe

December 13, 2018

Weeks after Parker Solar Probe made the closest-ever approach to a star, the science data from the first solar encounter is just making its way into the hands of the mission's scientists. It's a moment many in the field have ...

7 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JRi
3 / 5 (1) Nov 27, 2018
I'm just a bit curious, why they choose only three analysis instruments for InSight (seismometer, two thermometers, RISE X band rotation analyzer) along with two low resolution (1MP) cameras.

granville583762
3.5 / 5 (4) Nov 27, 2018
What about digital microscopes
then the world can have highly magnified Martian dust beamed directly back home
We have all had enough regolith landscapes to last billions of years
Martian life is microscopic
One of the problems of digital microscopes is they also seem to live in this 1 megapixal world
so they do not digitally enlarge very much
chemhaznet1
4 / 5 (2) Nov 27, 2018
I guess because its mostly stationary? What other instruments were you expecting? Not being a jerk BTW, just also curious to know so we could discuss more.
chemhaznet1
5 / 5 (2) Nov 27, 2018
granville583762 are you saying we should have sent a digital microscope? It sounds like at first you were and then you started saying how poor the quality of them are as if that wouldn't be what we should send? Also any microscope can be made digital by attaching a cmos/ccd sensor at the end of the tube. Focus and zoom can be done very easily by adding servos or ultrasonic motors or something similar.
Weatherman787
5 / 5 (3) Nov 27, 2018
I give it a day until people start saying they've found some kind of alien artifact in the picture.
granville583762
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 27, 2018
granville583762 are you saying we should have sent a digital microscope? It sounds like at first you were and then you started saying how poor the quality of them are as if that wouldn't be what we should send? Also any microscope can be made digital by attaching a cmos/ccd sensor at the end of the tube. Focus and zoom can be done very easily by adding servos or ultrasonic motors or something similar.

You can get adequate 3megapixal microscopes for 60 odd $, though these landers appear to spend the earth on single megapixels When magnifying, the pixels have to be smaller as the microbes are smaller, as being smaller 20mpixels are smaller than 6x4mm which is harder to make and its doubtful these landers have an adequate electric supply to run these gadgets without which these 4billion year old fossilis will be passed by unseen
A pity really after going all that way
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2018
I'm just a bit curious, why they choose only three analysis instruments for InSight (seismometer, two thermometers, RISE X band rotation analyzer) along with two low resolution (1MP) cameras.


It was a dedicated mission to gain insight [sic] into Mars, its core and its status (solid or liquid; seismic active or passive). Geology, not biology - that is the Mars 2020 rover responsibility and it, as well as the same time ExoMars, is dedicated to look for extant or extinct life for the first time (since habitability was established). Though notably, if the innards are active and heat transmitting the crust habitability goes up. The geology data couples back to understand Earth/exoplanets.

Mainly the instruments were expensive, massive and complicated enough (two years delay due to one missing the deadline); the cameras is for positioning the instruments mostly; they also have a weather station, since it is cheap, light and vet the seismology and thermometer data.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.