InSight gets ‘cozy’ on Mars: NASA lander puts protective shield on its seismometer to block wind and extreme temperatures
- Dome-shaped shield will protect seismometer from extreme temp fluctuations
- In a single Martian day, the temperature can vary by 170 degrees Fahrenheit
- It will also help to reduce the background ‘noise’ from Martian winds, NASA says
Since touching down on the red planet back in November, NASA’s InSight lander has slowly been making the necessary preparations for its long mission, during which it will be subjected to extreme temperature changes as it listens out for Marsquakes.
In a critical move, InSight has now successfully installed the protective shield around its seismometer, NASA says.
This will ensure the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument is collecting data as accurately as possible as it creates a window into the Martian interior.
In a critical move, InSight has now successfully installed the protective shield around its seismometer, NASA says. In a single Martian day, the temperature can fluctuate by about 170 degrees Fahrenheit (94 degrees Celsius)
NASA shared a series of updates on the InSight lander’s Twitter account over the weekend, including animations showing it putting the shield in place.
While seismometers used on Earth are usually placed below the surface, InSight’s sits right out in the open, leaving it vulnerable to winds and Mars’ daily temperature fluctuations.
In a single Martian day, the temperature can fluctuate by about 170 degrees Fahrenheit (94 degrees Celsius).
SEIS was built to correct for the variability of Mars’ climate and is even vacuum-sealed in a titanium sphere for insulation.
It’s also sealed within a hexagonal insulating container.
The domed Wind and Thermal Shield will provide yet another layer of protection, and block out ‘noise’ from Martian winds.
‘Temperature is one of our biggest bugaboos,’ said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
‘Think of the shield as putting a cozy over your food on a table. It keeps SEIS from warming up too much during the day or cooling off too much at night.
‘In general, we want to keep the temperature as steady as possible.’
SEIS was built to correct for the variability of Mars’ climate and is even vacuum-sealed in a titanium sphere for insulation. It’s also sealed within a hexagonal insulating container (shown)
An animation shared by the space agency last month showed InSight getting its grapple instrument in place, in a process that looks much like the age-old cup-and-ball game.
InSight has spent the last two months slowly setting up its instruments and conducting equipment health assessments ahead of its mission to listen for underground marsquakes.
In the meantime, the lander’s social media account has attracted the attention of many space enthusiasts – including Star Trek actor William Shatner, who questioned the source of a peculiar blue light that has appeared in some of the photos.
But, NASA says there’s nothing unusual (or alien-related) about the dancing light.
‘Just a bit of lens flare as the sun dips low on the horizon,’ NASA explained on Twitter. ‘(Both photos were taken shortly before sunset.) No cause for alarm, Captain!’
Earlier in the month, InSight leaned in for a better listen of Mars’ underground tremors, in hope its instruments pick up fainter signals that may otherwise have been missed.