General, Research, Technology

What was 2019 like for InSight on the Red Planet?

In November 2018, NASA InSight spacecraftlanded on the surface of the red planet. As a rule, landing on Mars is the most difficult task for most robotic vehicles. But with InSight, things are different. Immediately after landing, InSight began to measure weather conditions and take pictures of his new, now permanent home. Unlike other devices sent to Mars, InSight is not a rover, and therefore its research mission is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, the year for this amazing device was more than saturated.

NASA InSight is approaching the surface of Mars

What do the plains of Mars hide?

Since InSight is quite different fromits predecessors, the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, its mission is to collect data on the wide plain of Elysium Planitia near the equator of Mars. Note that the InSight device was launched on the Red Planet as part of the NASA Discovery research program. The mission is designed to study the internal structure and composition of Mars, and the estimated term of the apparatus equipped with a seismometer is 728 days.

According to Space.com, from the moment of landing, the device took measurements, but in 2019, InSight experienced a serious malfunction - a tool intended to plunge underground to a depth of about 5 meters to measure how heat and vibration pass through Martian soil - got stuck. The device drilled about 30 cm and stopped moving. This happened on February 28, putting the mission at risk.

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NASA engineers spent long spring andsummer tests on how to fix a stuck InSight tool, and the rig itself managed to get the nickname “mole”. According to scientists, the "mole" stuck either on a rock or mired in too soft soil. In June, scientists decided to use the InSight robotic arm to remove the support structure and understand what exactly the tool blocks. However, the hand was not designed for such delicate work, so the researchers had to make sure that this operation would work and tested on test models.

Insight while drilling

The tests were successful and by July 1, engineerssuccessfully removed the supporting structure. As a result, InSight was finally able to continue its work. Now scientists are considering the next steps. Fortunately, all of the other InSight instruments for measuring earthquakes on Mars and weather monitoring still work perfectly. For example, on April 6, a seismometer recorded its first earthquake. By earthly standards, it was so small that we would not even have registered it, but for a quieter Red planet this was a significant event. However, at the moment, researchers cannot name the exact cause of the earthquake. In their opinion, the recorded event seems to have occurred inside the planet.

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As you can see, the year on the Red Planet for the deviceInSight wasn’t as simple as NASA engineers expected. However, the most important news is that the device continues its work and uses its unique tools to send even more data to the Earth, with the help of which we will learn what amazing processes are happening on the surface and inside the amazing Red planet.

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