InSight Is Catching Rays on Mars

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. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. and ELISIUM PLANITIA, Mars (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — 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 solar arrays 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 lander 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 power output 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 team 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.

About InSight

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES and IPGP provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the wind sensors.

For more information about InSight, visit:

https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

  • Jeff Smith

    That is a GREAT shot.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Congratulations to the Team for a good landing.

    I predict it will find more evidence that life could, just could, exist on Mars and we need to send more missions to learn about the prospects of life on Mars.

  • duheagle

    Heh.

  • therealdmt

    Style points for the copper-colored parts!

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Sounds like a perfectly good business plan to me. If it were a private corporation behaving the same way, you’d tout it as a major way capitalism drums up business from nothing.

  • ThomasLMatula

    True, a good way to ensure career long employment 😊

    But when life is found on Mars I bet it will be by a bio-prospector looking for genes to patent. One more business model for the Starship.

  • SamuelRoman13

    JPL broke NASA rules by landing just anywhere. Hard to estimate from the image, but it missed hitting a ridge with rocks high enough to tip it over by a hundred m. or so. The deck is only 1m high. I guess this site met requirements for everything else they wanted to do except a safe landing. Hi Rise would easily show the ridges. They just decided to take a chance it would make it on purpose. The sand area is larger than the ridge area, so it had about a 75% chance of landing safely at this location. They just gambled. Crazy. It is like nothing has been learned about Mars since Viking landed blind. Phoenix area was well checked out and was smooth. A near 1 billion$ mission nearly failed because of stupid people.

    I will write NASA and Bridenstine to complain. Also Democrats as Republicans don’t care.

  • Kirk

    Are you basing all that just from this photo? I understand that the landing site was specifically chosen for landing safety, along with low latitude and low altitude. Have you seen any articles suggesting otherwise?

  • SamuelRoman13

    Yes. I looked for a close up of this area and could not find one. A little more searching and I might find one. They did not have one on their site. They had one that was of the whole ellipse. Some dark dots. Nice splash crater which usually means mud. They are dishonest. If they had showed these ridges in a closeup, they may had to change the landing area. I should have checked, but I thought they were honest.
    They said they landed near the center. They don’t know where they landed. Sats will image Insight and then I can see how close it came to the ridges. I want to see what is on the other side. They may be a foot away from a wall or a ridge with large rocks that would have destroyed Insight. If any fuel left it may have exploded.
    They whole team for JPL and L-M should be fired. For landing there or not being a whistleblower for anyone that knew of the ridges and lying for saying it was smooth. JPL and LM are the same people that lost Phonix 1. L-M should have part of their payment withheld and JPL fined and the director fired.

  • Kirk

    I still don’t know what ridge you are talking about, but here is an article on the landing site: Mars mission got lucky: NASA lander touched down in a sand-filled crater, easing study of planet’s interior (Science, 2018-11-28)