JPL: InSight to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars

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InSight Has a Thermometer for Mars

Post by bystander » Wed Aug 29, 2018 7:42 pm

InSight Has a Thermometer for Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Aug 28
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Ambitious climbers, forget Mt. Everest. Dream about Mars.

The Red Planet has some of the tallest mountains in the solar system. They include Olympus Mons, a volcano nearly three times the height of Everest. It borders a region called the Tharsis plateau, where three equally awe-inspiring volcanoes dominate the landscape.

But what geologic processes created these features on the Martian surface? Scientists have long wondered -- and may soon know more.

NASA and DLR (German Aerospace Center) plan to take the planet's temperature for the first time ever, measuring how heat flows out of the planet and drives this inspiring geology. Detecting this escaping heat will be a crucial part of a mission called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

InSight will be the first mission to study Mars' deep interior, using its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument to measure heat as it is conducted from the interior to the planet's surface. This energy was in part captured when Mars formed more than 4 billion years ago, preserving a record of its creation. That energy is also due to the decay of radioactive elements in the rocky interior.
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MarCO Makes Space for Small Explorers

Post by bystander » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:28 pm

MarCO Makes Space for Small Explorers
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MarCO | 2018 Sep 13
Twenty years ago, CubeSats -- a class of boxy satellites small enough to fit in a backpack -- were used by universities as a teaching aid. Simpler, smaller and cheaper than traditional satellites, they've made space more accessible to private companies and science agencies.

This summer, NASA has been flying the first two next-generation CubeSats to deep space. They're currently on their way to Mars, trailing thousands of miles behind the InSight spacecraft. InSight and its CubeSat tag-alongs are already more than halfway to the Red Planet.

The mini-mission, called Mars Cube One (MarCO), has already proved this class of spacecraft can survive the deep-space environment. It will next test the use of miniaturized communication technology to relay data when InSight attempts to land in November. Relaying landing data is one of the jobs of NASA's orbiters, which will record InSight's descent; engineers learn more from every landing attempt. MarCO will test whether this technology can ably perform the relay job for future missions.

To complete their mission, the MarCOs have miniature high-gain antennas and radios that can communicate with Earth from roughly 93 million miles away. Their propulsion systems are capable of steering towards Mars; each MarCO completed its second steering maneuver in August. They even have color cameras, one of which snapped the first image from a CubeSat of the Earth and the Moon -- proof of just how far this technology has literally come. ...
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First Image of Mars from a CubeSat

Post by bystander » Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:33 pm

First Image of Mars from a CubeSat
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MarCO | 2018 Oct 22
Click to view full size image 1 or image 2
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's MarCO mission was designed to find out if briefcase-sized spacecraft called CubeSats could survive the journey to deep space. Now, MarCO - which stands for Mars Cube One - has Mars in sight.

One of the twin MarCO CubeSats snapped this image of Mars on Oct. 3 - the first image of the Red Planet ever produced by this class of tiny, low-cost spacecraft. The two CubeSats are officially called MarCO-A and MarCO-B but nicknamed "EVE" and "Wall-E" by their engineering team.

A wide-angle camera on top of MarCO-B produced the image as a test of exposure settings. The MarCO mission, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, hopes to produce more images as the CubeSats approach Mars ahead of Nov. 26. That's when they'll demonstrate their communications capabilities while NASA's InSight spacecraft attempts to land on the Red Planet. (The InSight mission won't rely on them, however; NASA's Mars orbiters will be relaying the spacecraft's data back to Earth.)

This image was taken from a distance of roughly 8 million miles (12.8 million kilometers) from Mars. The MarCOs are "chasing" Mars, which is a moving target as it orbits the Sun. In order to be in place for InSight's landing, the CubeSats have to travel roughly 53 million miles (85 million kilometers). They have already traveled 248 million miles (399 million kilometers).

MarCO-B's wide-angle camera looks straight out from the deck of the CubeSat. Parts related to the spacecraft's high-gain antenna are visible on either side of the image. Mars appears as a small red dot at the right of the image. ...
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InSight Will Study Mars While Standing Still

Post by bystander » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:44 pm

InSight Will Study Mars While Standing Still
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Oct 24
You don't need wheels to explore Mars.

After touching down in November, NASA's InSight spacecraft will spread its solar panels, unfold a robotic arm … and stay put. Unlike the space agency's rovers, InSight is a lander designed to study an entire planet from just one spot.

This sedentary science allows InSight to detect geophysical signals deep below the Martian surface, including marsquakes and heat. Scientists will also be able to track radio signals from the stationary spacecraft, which vary based on the wobble in Mars' rotation. Understanding this wobble could help solve the mystery of whether the planet's core is solid.

Here are five things to know about how InSight conducts its science.
  1. InSight Can Measure Quakes Anywhere on the Planet
  2. InSight's Seismometer Needs Peace and Quiet
  3. InSight Has a Self-Hammering Nail
  4. InSight Can Land in a Safe Spot
  5. InSight Can Measure Mars' Wobble
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The Mars InSight Landing Site Is Just Plain Perfect

Post by bystander » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:29 pm

The Mars InSight Landing Site Is Just Plain Perfect
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 05
No doubt about it, NASA explores some of the most awe-inspiring locations in our solar system and beyond. Once seen, who can forget the majesty of astronaut Jim Irwin standing before the stark beauty of the Moon's Hadley Apennine mountain range, of the Hubble Space Telescope's gorgeous "Pillars of Creation" or Cassini's magnificent mosaic of Saturn?

Mars also plays a part in this visually compelling equation, with the high-definition imagery from the Curiosity rover of the ridges and rounded buttes at the base of Mount Sharp bringing to mind the majesty of the American Southwest. That said, Elysium Planitia - the site chosen for the Nov. 26 landing of NASA's InSight mission to Mars - will more than likely never be mentioned with those above because it is, well, plain. ...

Yes, the landing site of NASA's next Mars mission may very well look like a stadium parking lot, but that is the way the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) project likes it.

"Previous missions to the Red Planet have investigated its surface by studying its canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil," said Banerdt. "But the signatures of the planet's formation processes can be found only by sensing and studying evidence buried far below the surface. It is InSight's job to study the deep interior of Mars, taking the planet's vital signs – its pulse, temperature and reflexes."

Taking those vital signs will help the InSight science team look back to a time when the rocky planets of the solar system formed. The investigations will depend on three instruments:

Five Things to Know About InSight's Mars Landing
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Oct 31
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What Two Planetary Siblings Can Teach Us About Life

Post by bystander » Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:20 pm

What Two Planetary Siblings Can Teach Us About Life
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 20
Mars and Earth are like two siblings who have grown apart.

There was a time when their resemblance was uncanny: Both were warm, wet and shrouded in thick atmospheres. But 3 or 4 billion years ago, these two worlds took different paths.

We may soon know why they went their separate ways. NASA's InSight spacecraft will arrive at the Red Planet on Monday, Nov. 26, and will allow scientists to compare Earth to its rusty sibling like never before.

InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) won't be looking for life on Mars. But studying its insides - what it's made of, how that material is layered and how much heat seeps out of it - could help scientists better understand how a planet's starting materials make it more or less likely to support life. ...
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InSight on Course for Mars Touchdown

Post by bystander » Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:30 pm

InSight on Course for Mars Touchdown
NASA | JPL-Caltech | Insight | 2018 Nov 21
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 it's not going to be a relaxing weekend of turkey leftovers, football and shopping for the InSight mission team. Engineers will be keeping a close eye on the stream of data indicating InSight's health and trajectory, and monitoring Martian weather reports to figure out if the team needs to make any final adjustments in preparation for landing, only five days away.

"Landing on Mars is hard. It takes skill, focus and years of preparation," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Keeping in mind our ambitious goal to eventually send humans to the surface of the Moon and then Mars, I know that our incredible science and engineering team — the only in the world to have successfully landed spacecraft on the Martian surface — will do everything they can to successfully land InSight on the Red Planet."

InSight, the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5, 2018. It has been an uneventful flight to Mars, and engineers like it that way. They will get plenty of excitement when InSight hits the top of the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) and slows down to 5 mph (8 kph) — about human jogging speed — before its three legs touch down on Martian soil. That extreme deceleration has to happen in just under seven minutes. ...
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InSight Is One Day Away from Mars

Post by bystander » Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:40 pm

InSight Is One Day Away from Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 25
In just over 24 hours, NASA's InSight spacecraft will complete its seven-month journey to Mars. It will have cruised 301,223,981 miles (484,773,006 km) at a top speed of 6,200 mph (10,000 kph).

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission, are preparing for the spacecraft to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend with a parachute and retrorockets, and touch down tomorrow at around noon PST (3 p.m. EST). ...

Before InSight enters the Martian atmosphere, there are a few final preparations to make. Engineers still need to conduct a last trajectory correction maneuver to steer the spacecraft toward its entry point over Mars. About two hours before hitting the atmosphere, the entry, descent and landing (EDL) team might also upload some final tweaks to the algorithm that guides the spacecraft safely to the surface.

These will be the last commands issued to InSight before it robotically guides itself the rest of the way. The EDL team worked for months beforehand to pre-program every stage of InSight's landing, making adjustments based on weather reports from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. ...

InSight Landing on Mars: Milestones
NASA | JPL-Caltech | Insight | 2018 Nov 21
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Re: JPL: InSight to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars

Post by neufer » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:14 pm

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InSight Arrives at Mars

Post by bystander » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:31 pm

InSight in Position for Mars Landing
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 26

InSight Lander Arrives on Martian Surface
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 26

InSight Is Catching Rays on Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 26

Marsquakes' Mission Successfully Lands on Red Planet
UK Space Agency | 2018 Nov 26

Mars Mole HP3 Arrives at the Red Planet
German Aerospace Center (DLR) | 2018 Nov 26
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NASA Hears MarCO CubeSats Loud and Clear from Mars

Post by bystander » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:22 am

NASA Hears MarCO CubeSats Loud and Clear from Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MarCO | 2018 Nov 27
NASA's MarCO mission was built to see whether two experimental, briefcase-sized spacecraft could survive the trip to deep space, and the two CubeSats proved more than able. After cruising along behind NASA's InSight for seven months, they successfully relayed data back down to Earth from the lander during its descent to the Martian surface on Monday, Nov. 26.

Nicknamed "EVE" and "WALL-E" after the stars of the 2008 Pixar film, MarCO-A and MarCO-B used experimental radios and antennas, providing an alternate way for engineers to monitor the landing. The CubeSats provided information to InSight's landing team in just 8 minutes — the time it took for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth. That was much faster than waiting on NASA's Mars orbiters, which weren't positioned to be able to observe the entire event and send data back to Earth immediately. ...

Landing on Mars is exceptionally difficult: Before InSight, only about 40 percent of all attempts by various nations had succeeded. Even if a spacecraft doesn't survive landing, having a "black box" — or a pair of them, as with MarCO — to record the event can help engineers design better landing technology.

Neither of the MarCO CubeSats carry science instruments, but that didn't stop the team from testing whether future CubeSats could perform useful science at Mars. As MarCO-A flew by, it conducted some impromptu radio science, transmitting signals through the edge of Mars' atmosphere. Interference from the Martian atmosphere changes the signal when received on Earth, allowing scientists to determine how much atmosphere is present and, to some degree, what it's made of. ...

As a bonus, some consumer-grade cameras aboard MarCO provided "drive-by" images as the CubeSats sailed past Mars. MarCO-B was programmed to turn so that it could image the planet in a sequence of shots as it approached Mars (before launch, MarCO-A's cameras were found to be either non-functioning or too blurry to use).

After the landing, MarCO-B turned backward to take a farewell shot of the Red Planet. It also attempted to snap some photos of Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos. ...
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Mars New Home 'a Large Sandbox'

Post by bystander » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:49 pm

Mars New Home 'a Large Sandbox'
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Nov 30
With InSight safely on the surface of Mars, the mission team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is busy learning more about the spacecraft's landing site. They knew when InSight landed on Nov. 26 that the spacecraft had touched down on target, a lava plain named Elysium Planitia. Now they've determined that the vehicle sits slightly tilted (about 4 degrees) in a shallow dust- and sand-filled impact crater known as a "hollow." InSight has been engineered to operate on a surface with an inclination up to 15 degrees. ...

Rockiness and slope grade factor into landing safety and are also important in determining whether InSight can succeed in its mission after landing. Rocks and slopes could affect InSight's ability to place its heat-flow probe — also known as "the mole," or HP3 — and ultra-sensitive seismometer, known as SEIS, on the surface of Mars.

Touching down on an overly steep slope in the wrong direction could also have jeopardized the spacecraft's ability to get adequate power output from its two solar arrays, while landing beside a large rock could have prevented InSight from being able to open one of those arrays. In fact, both arrays fully deployed shortly after landing.

The InSight science team's preliminary assessment of the photographs taken so far of the landing area suggests the area in the immediate vicinity of the lander is populated by only a few rocks. Higher-resolution images are expected to begin arriving over the coming days, after InSight releases the clear-plastic dust covers that kept the optics of the spacecraft's two cameras safe during landing. ...
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InSight Flexes Its Arm

Post by bystander » Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:29 pm

InSight Flexes Its Arm
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Dec 06
New images from NASA's Mars InSight lander show its robotic arm is ready to do some lifting.

With a reach of nearly 6 feet (2 meters), 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 Nov. 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. 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. ...

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. ...

Placement is critical, and the team is proceeding with caution. Two to three months could go by before the instruments have been situated and calibrated. ...

More images from InSight's arm were scheduled to come down this past weekend. However, imaging was momentarily interrupted, resuming the following day. During the first few weeks in its new home, InSight has been instructed to be extra careful, so anything unexpected will trigger what's called a fault. Considered routine, it causes the spacecraft to stop what it is doing and ask for help from operators on the ground. ...
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InSight 'Hears' Martian Winds

Post by bystander » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:24 pm

InSight 'Hears' Martian Winds
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Dec 07
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NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander, which touched down on Mars just 10 days ago, has provided the first ever "sounds" of Martian winds on the Red Planet.

InSight sensors captured a haunting low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind, estimated to be blowing between 10 to 15 mph (5 to 7 meters a second) on Dec. 1, from northwest to southeast. The winds were consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit.

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves." ...

Two very sensitive sensors on the spacecraft detected these wind vibrations: an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer sitting on the lander's deck, awaiting deployment by InSight's robotic arm. The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. The air pressure sensor, part of the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem (APSS), which will collect meteorological data, recorded these air vibrations directly. The seismometer recorded lander vibrations caused by the wind moving over the spacecraft's solar panels, which are each 7 feet (2.2 meters) in diameter and stick out from the sides of the lander like a giant pair of ears. ...

The Sound of Mars
United Kingdom Space Agency | 2018 Dec 07
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InSight Takes Its First Selfie

Post by bystander » Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:31 pm

InSight Takes Its First Selfie
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Dec 11
NASA's InSight lander isn't camera-shy. The spacecraft used a camera on its robotic arm to take its first selfie — a mosaic made up of 11 images. This is the same imaging process used by NASA's Curiosity rover mission, in which many overlapping pictures are taken and later stitched together. Visible in the selfie are the lander's solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments.

Mission team members have also received their first complete look at InSight's "workspace" — the approximately 14-by-7-foot (4-by-2-meter) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft. This image is also a mosaic composed of 52 individual photos.

In the coming weeks, scientists and engineers will go through the painstaking process of deciding where in this workspace the spacecraft's instruments should be placed. They will then command InSight's robotic arm to carefully set the seismometer (called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS) and heat-flow probe (known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3) in the chosen locations. Both work best on level ground, and engineers want to avoid setting them on rocks larger than about a half-inch (1.3 cm). ...
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InSight Seen in First Images from Space

Post by bystander » Sat Dec 15, 2018 6:39 pm

InSight Seen in First Images from Space
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | HiRISE | 2018 Dec 13
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 camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The InSight lander, its heat shield and parachute were spotted by HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) in one set of images last week on Dec. 6, and again on Tuesday, Dec. 11. The lander, heat shield and parachute are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight's landing location.

In images released today, the three new features on the Martian landscape appear teal. That's not their actual color: Light reflected off their surfaces causes the color to be saturated. The ground around the lander appears dark, having been blasted by its retrorockets during descent. Look carefully for a butterfly shape, and you can make out the lander's solar panels on either side.

This isn't the first time HiRISE has photographed a Mars lander. InSight is based largely on 2008's Phoenix spacecraft, which the camera aboard MRO captured on the surface of Mars as well as descending on its parachute. While the HiRISE team at the University of Arizona also tried to take an image of InSight during landing, MRO was at a much less opportune angle and wasn't able to take a good picture.

Western Planetary Scientists Assist in Capturing Image of Insight from Orbit
Western University, Canada | 2018 Dec 13
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Re: InSight Seen in First Images from Space

Post by neufer » Sat Dec 15, 2018 7:32 pm

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InSight Places First Instrument on Mars

Post by bystander » Thu Dec 20, 2018 6:20 pm

InSight Places First Instrument on Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Dec 19
NASA's InSight lander has deployed its first instrument onto the surface of Mars, completing a major mission milestone. New images from the lander show the seismometer on the ground, its copper-colored covering faintly illuminated in the Martian dusk. It looks as if all is calm and all is bright for InSight, heading into the end of the year. ...

The InSight team has been working carefully toward deploying its two dedicated science instruments onto Martian soil since landing on Mars on Nov. 26. Meanwhile, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), which does not have its own separate instrument, has already begun using InSight's radio connection with Earth to collect preliminary data on the planet’s core. Not enough time has elapsed for scientists to deduce what they want to know — scientists estimate they might have some results starting in about a year.

To deploy the seismometer (also known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS) and the heat probe (also known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe, or HP3), engineers first had to verify the robotic arm that picks up and places InSight's instruments onto the Martian surface was working properly. Engineers tested the commands for the lander, making sure a model in the test bed at JPL deployed the instruments exactly as intended. Scientists also had to analyze images of the Martian terrain around the lander to figure out the best places to deploy the instruments.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, InSight engineers sent up the commands to the spacecraft. On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the seismometer was gently placed onto the ground directly in front of the lander, about as far away as the arm can reach ---- 5.367 feet, or 1.636 meters, away). ...

InSight Engineers Have Made a Martian Rock Garden
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Dec 18
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Re: InSight Places First Instrument on Mars

Post by neufer » Thu Dec 20, 2018 6:48 pm


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Thu Dec 20, 2018 6:20 pm
InSight Places First Instrument on Mars
NASA | JPL-Caltech | InSight | 2018 Dec 19

NASA's InSight lander has deployed its first instrument onto the surface of Mars, completing a major mission milestone. New images from the lander show the seismometer on the ground, its copper-colored covering faintly illuminated in the Martian dusk. It looks as if all is calm and all is bright for InSight, heading into the end of the year. ...
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Re: JPL: InSight to Take First Look Deep Inside Mars

Post by neufer » Sat Dec 22, 2018 4:53 pm

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