Executive Intelligence Review


JPL To Practice with Insight Instruments in ‘Mars Yard’ on Earth before Martian Deployment

Nov. 27, 2018 (EIRNS)—A second photo taken by NASA’s InSight lander, received at JPL yesterday evening, was much clearer than the first one. It shows in stunning detail the flat terrain that mission engineers had planned for. Engineers said nearby rocks should not present a problem in finding a flat area for InSight to deploy its underground experiments. Earlier, mission control released a photo of Mars taken from orbit by one of the MarCo cubesats, which accompanied the InSight to Mars. The two cubesats just passed by the planet at the critical time to relay InSight landing data and the first photo back to mission control. They did not land or go into orbit.

Also last night, NASA received confirmation that the solar panels on InSight had deployed and were charging its batteries. Now engineers will spend weeks getting ready to deploy the scientific instruments. Before they do that on Mars, Elizabeth Barrett from JPL explained at a press conference yesterday, they will practice each maneuver InSight could make in JPL’s “Mars Yard,” which can be designed to simulate any surface on Mars. InSight is a lander, not a rover, so JPL can only choose spots for drilling within reach of the spacecraft.

The reason it took seven hours to receive last night’s data from Mars is because it is being relayed from InSight to the Deep Space Network on Earth via the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, only when those spacecraft are in range above InSight in their orbits.