DEC 23, 2018 3:12 PM PST

NASA's InSight Lander Deploys Marsquake Detection Instrument

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

NASA’s InSight lander touched down on the Martian surface less than a month ago, and it’s already gearing up for scientific data collection and analysis.

In an official statement released by NASA last week, we learn that the American space agency sent commands to InSight on Tuesday, December 18th to activate its robotic arm and place its SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) instrument five feet away on the ground. The lander reportedly acted on these commands the very next day.

A picture of InSight's SEIS instrument in the soil beside the lander.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of InSight’s onboard cameras captured the image above after the robotic arm placed the copper-colored SEIS instrument in the Martian soil. At the top, you can see the claw that the robotic arm used to hoist the SEIS instrument and place it down on the ground.

As you probably gathered already from the name, InSight’s SEIS instrument is a seismometer, and it will help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ formation.

"Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars," explained InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The seismometer is the highest-priority instrument on InSight: We need it in order to complete about three-quarters of our science objectives."

Related: NASA's learning more about InSight's landing site post-landing

The seismometer’s primary objective is to help planetary scientists study the red planet’s internal motions and vibrations, known as ‘marsquakes.’ As it would seem, these tiny movements can speak for Mars’ internal structure.

As each of the movements transpires, each layer of the planet responds differently, giving scientists data that can be used to discern each layer’s composition and depth, among other things. With data of this nature, scientists can speculate more accurately about Mars’ past.

"Having the seismometer on the ground is like holding a phone up to your ear," added Philippe Lognonné, the SEIS principal investigator. "We're thrilled that we're now in the best position to listen to all the seismic waves from below Mars' surface and from its deep interior."

Related: Listen to the sound of Martian wind, captured with NASA's InSight lander

With the most stressful part of the maneuver over with, NASA engineers will soon move forward with leveling attempts to eliminate the 2-3-degree tilt that the seismometer exhibits. Afterward, engineers will place the Wind and Thermal Shield over the instrument to prevent any unwanted interference from soiling its data before it reaches scientists on Earth.

"We look forward to popping some Champagne when we start to get data from InSight's seismometer on the ground," Banerdt concluded. "I have a bottle ready for the occasion."

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see what we’ll learn from InSight’s SEIS instrument, especially considering just how many questions the mission seeks to answer.

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.
You May Also Like
AUG 05, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Mars Was Shaped by Ice Sheets - not Rivers
AUG 05, 2020
Mars Was Shaped by Ice Sheets - not Rivers
Physicists have found that in the distant past, Mars may not have been warm enough to carry vast oceans. Instead, in new ...
AUG 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
AUG 24, 2020
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
NASA has said that an asteroid known as 2018VP1 is heading towards Earth, and may potentially collide with our planet on ...
OCT 08, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
How much radiation do super flares emit?
OCT 08, 2020
How much radiation do super flares emit?
Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published in Astrophysical Journal contemplates the amount ...
DEC 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Watching a Nebula Fade
DEC 06, 2020
Watching a Nebula Fade
Nebulas are vast clouds of dust and gas that are remnants of exploded stars or in other cases, nurseries for where stars ...
JAN 05, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Could Earth's Microbes Help Us Find Extraterrestrial Life?
JAN 05, 2021
Could Earth's Microbes Help Us Find Extraterrestrial Life?
As scientists are learning more about microbes existing in the higher echelons of the Earth's atmosphere, they are b ...
JAN 06, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Settling the Debate Over the Age of the Universe
JAN 06, 2021
Settling the Debate Over the Age of the Universe
Astronomers have used powerful telescopes high in the Atacama desert to evaluate estimates of the age of the universe. T ...
Loading Comments...