AUG 22, 2018 7:45 PM PDT

NASA's InSight Spacecraft is Halfway to Mars, and Everything is Working

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Just this week, NASA announced a significant milestone regarding the space agency’s InSight mission. The spacecraft, which launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base back in May, officially passed the halfway mark to Mars on August 6th.

An artist's impression of the InSight spacecraft as it moves through space.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA says that the InSight spacecraft has traveled more than 172 million miles through space and performed two trajectory correction maneuvers as of August 20th. It now has just 129 million miles to go before it reaches its destination and attempts a landing in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region to begin scientific operations.

As InSight closes in on its target, NASA engineers are spending their remaining time wisely by remotely testing the spacecraft’s onboard instruments and cameras. One of the most recent remote hardware tests confirmed that all of InSight’s onboard instruments are in good health and working correctly.

The remote hardware test involved capturing test readings from the spacecraft’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) and its Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE). Engineers also connected to the spacecraft’s camera to take a selfie of its internal components. You can see the resulting photograph below:

The selfie taken by InSight's onboard camera system.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As you might expect, conducting these remote hardware tests requires the use of the spacecraft’s onboard radio. Given that NASA was able to communicate with the InSight spacecraft and download its selfie, we’d be inclined to say that the radio equipment is working well too.

"We did our final performance checks on July 19, which were successful," said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of InSight from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We have been using the spacecraft's radio since launch day, and our conversations with InSight have been very cordial, so we are good to go with RISE as well."

Related: Mars' dust storm is clearing up, sparking hope for reviving NASA's Opportunity rover

With everything working correctly and the InSight spacecraft well on its way to Mars, we can safely assume that it will land on Mars on November 26th as expected. Furthermore, InSight will investigate Mars’ sub-surface seismic activity, internal planetary temperature, and orbital wobble characteristics once it situates after landing.

InSight won’t be taking any more selfies during its trip; in fact, NASA won’t use the camera again until the spacecraft officially reaches Mars. There, it will snap several pictures of the planet’s surface and beam them back to scientists on Earth for analysis.

In what appears to be good news for NASA and the InSight team, it looks like it won’t be long before we get to learn more about our red planetary neighbor.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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