It’s been nearly two weeks since NASA’s InSight Probe landed on Mars and already the costly spacecraft is hard at work sending information back to ground control.
In the latest update, the probe’s sent over a series of stunning new photos of the Red Planet’s terrain.
The pictures, captured at a lava plain called Elysium Planitia, were taken using InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera, and they show the probe’s two-metre-long robotic arm is ready for some heavy lifting.
According to a statement from NASA, these images will help mission team members determine where to set InSight’s seismometer and heat flow probe – the only instruments ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet.
Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “Today [4 December] we can see the first glimpses of our workspace. By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.”
Another camera called the Instrument Context Camera will be used to offer snapshots of the workspace, although the view won’t be as pretty as these stunning pics.
In a more recent message from the InSight, we were treated to another exciting update in the form of a clip providing the first ever ‘sounds’ of Martian winds. The haunting rumble was captured by InSight sensors that picked up vibrations from winds estimated to be blowing between 10 to 15 mph.
Speaking about the cosmic soundtrack, Banerdt said: “Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat. But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves.”
This is a very rare treat indeed, particularly since this is the only part of the mission where the seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), will be capable of detecting vibrations generated directly by the lander.
NASA went on to outline that in a few weeks, it’ll be positioned on Mars’ surface by InSight’s robotic arm, then covered by a domed shield to protect it from wind and temperature changes. However, for the time being it’s sending data to scientists who will later use the information to detect actual marsquakes. No, this is not science-fiction – this is actually happening, people.
NASA’s InSight touched down on the Red Planet on November 26, and is set to be the first probe sent to investigate the interior of Mars. The $1 billion project will see the probe use various devices to relay information back to NASA about the planet’s deep structure, mapping its core, crust and mantle.
Acting director of NASA’s planetary science division, Lori Glaze, explained: “Once InSight is settled on the red planet and its instruments are deployed, it will start collecting valuable information about the structure of Mars’ deep interior – information that will help us understand the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including the one we call home.”
Featured Image Credit: NASA