NASA scientists can now peer into the Martian interior by studying ground motion after the InSight lander deployed its first instrument successfully onto the surface of the Red Planet, the US space agency said. "New images from the lander show the seismometer on the ground, it's copper-coloured covering faintly illuminated in the Martian dusk,” NASA said in a statement. "InSight’s timetable of activities on Mars has gone better than we hoped,” said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman, who is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Getting the seismometer safely on the ground is an awesome Christmas present," said Hoffman.
The @NASAInSight lander placed its seismometer on Mars on Dec. 19, marking the first time a science instrument has ever been placed onto the surface of another planet. The lander is set to study the interior of Mars and listen for marsquakes. Details: https://t.co/4DL2EzfjZb pic.twitter.com/TVNXWf5Ef9— NASA (@NASA) December 20, 2018
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The InSight team has been working carefully towards deploying its two dedicated science instruments onto Martian soil since landing on Mars on November 26. 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.
"Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, also based at JPL. "The seismometer is the highest-priority instrument on InSight: We need it in order to complete about three-quarters of our science objectives," Banerdt said.
"Having the seismometer on the ground is like holding a phone up to your ear," said Philippe Lognonne, principal investigator of SEIS from Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and Paris Diderot University.
Earlier, the InSight lander using its HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted Martian landscape. "It looks like the heat shield (upper right) has its dark outside facing down, since it is so bright (saturated, probably a specular reflection)," HiRISE principal investigator Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona, wrote in an image description.
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"HiRISE also spotted the lander’s heat shield and parachute, on December 6 and again on December 11. They are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight’s landing location," NASA said.
The lander also sent another set of mosaic composed of 52 individual photos, showcasing the “workspace” — the approximately 14-by-7-foot (4-by-2-metre) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft, NASA noted.