With InSight’s landing on the red planet yesterday, its 7-month-long journey to Mars came to an end. The touchdown also kickstarted the next phase of the mission which is 2-years-long and costs $850m. The immense amount of work that is yet to be done was confirmed by Elizabeth Barrett of NASA. She added that the health of the instruments and the spacecraft will be assessed first and then attention will be shifted to the landing site.
The lander, weighing 800 pounds, has landed to the north of Elysium Planitia, the Martian equator and the landing spot is said to be plain and broad. The equatorial region is mostly free of rocks and could be viewed faintly in the first-ever photo that was sent back from the lander. Barrett, along with her team, will direct the 6-foot-long robotic arm of InSight over the course of the following 2-3 months. Each scientific instrument will be plucked from the craft and placed directly on the surface of the planet. Barrett compared this phase of the mission to claw games played at carnivals and even referred to remote control cars. The first work will include the dome-shaped seismometer of InSight, which will listen to the deep interiors of Mars for locating seismic activity and also measuring magnitude and frequency of mars quakes. Around 2 weeks after the correct placing of InSight’s seismometer and protective shield, its arm will deploy a probe which will be responsible for hammering itself down to about 16 feet below the Martian surface. This will help in recording intensity of heat in the planet’s interior.
These heat probe and seismometer have been designed in ways that’ll help scientists understand more about the evolving process of Earth, Mars and other rocky planets.
Although the landing spot of InSight is plain and flat, the process of deploying instruments is risky. Barrett assured that proper practice sessions will be held for the correct execution of these deployment processes. After all the instruments are in place, all the experts have to do is sit back and record all the vital data and information that InSight gathers, said Barrett.