InSight’s robotic arm undergoes instrument deployment testing
If everything goes according to plan, NASA’s Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight ) mission will touch down on the surface of Mars. While there, it will conduct studies into the processes that formed and shaped the terrestrial planets, including our home world. To help the stationary lander achieve this mission, it has been provided with an array of scientific instruments — two of which will need to be placed on the surface of the Red Planet with the lander’s arm.
InSight’s robotic arm will need to be able to hoist two science instruments from the lander’s back and onto the ground. To demonstrate that it is capable of accomplishing this, engineers inside a clean room, located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, performed tests with the lander’s arm about two years before it will perform these tasks on Mars.
InSight is currently scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 3E (SLC-3E) atop an Atlas V 401 booster in March 2016.
France’s national space agency (CNES) provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS, which is one of the two instruments planned for deployment. It contains parts which hail from Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In the featured image, the robotic arm is seen after it has set down a test article of SEIS (more accurately the instrument’s wind and thermal shield). This shield is to diminish the possible impact caused by Martian weather on SEIS’ seismometer.
InSight is a part of NASA’s Discovery Program. These missions are competitively-selected and have scientific goals meant to enable further exploration of the Solar System. InSight is managed out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center located in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington D.C. InSight is constructed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.