Making history with the InSight lander

The InSight lander successfully landed on Mars November 26, 2018. Since that time, InSight has already made history in a slew of scientific firsts.

Although it’s still early days for InSight’s two-year mission, the robotic lander is already collecting groundbreaking data.

What is InSight?
InSight is an acronym for “Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport.”

Lockheed Martin built InSight at its Denver location. This project was the result of a NASA collaboration with CNES, the German Aerospace Center, and many other space agencies. InSight is a truly collaborative, international effort to explore the mysteries of the universe.

The InSight mission is scheduled to run for two Earth years, or one Mars year.

During its time on Mars, InSight will measure the planet’s movement. Through devices like a seismometer, InSight will help scientists better detect marsquakes.

InSight will detect if tremors on Mars have similar vibrational signatures to the ones here on Earth.

We hope to learn more about the structure and formation of planets with InSight’s data.

Groundbreaking data
Since landing on Mars just a few months ago, InSight has already provided astounding insights into the red planet.

Thanks to sensitive sensors on board InSight, scientists were able to “hear” sound created by winds on Mars.

The sensors on InSight didn’t hear the noise, per se, but they did detect the slight rumble caused by the vibrations of wind.

InSight used its air pressure sensor and seismometer to detect sounds on the Martian surface.

Sound literally changes air pressure. Because of that, InSight’s air pressure sensor picked up on these changes in air pressure caused by the wind. InSight’s seismometer recorded vibrations on the lander itself, caused by wind moving over the InSight solar panels.

The lander detected the wind on December 1, traveling an estimated 10 to 15 miles per hour. Scientists confirmed InSight actually did detect the wind, as the data was consistent with streaks that dust devils left on the planet’s surface.

The robotic arm
InSight’s noise detection was a surprising delight to scientists. As it stood, the team was calibrating and updating machines for InSight’s next big task: using its robotic arm.

The plan is to use InSight’s robotic arm to place a seismometer on the Martian surface. InSight will also place a dome on top of the seismometer to protect it.

Scientists designed InSight’s arm to reach up to six feet. The arm can pick up instruments from its deck and place them on the planet’s surface.

Once calibrated, InSight will place a seismometer and heat flow probe on the Mars Elysium Planitia, a lava plain. Scientists will use InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera to take photos of the Martian terrain during the perilous placement process.

It will be a few weeks before InSight is ready to deploy its tools. Once it completes this task, it will be the first robot to place instruments on the surface of another planet.


The future of Mars exploration
With the InSight mission already making scientific history, we’re excited to embrace the future of space travel.

Scientists plan to use the Mars 2020 rover to record actual audio from the Mars surface. As we pave the way for human travel with robotic missions, it’s clear that the future of Mars is very bright.