- NASA’s InSight rover is operational and sending back images
- It has sent the sound of Martian winds
NASA’s latest Martian rover, InSight, which touched down a couple of weeks ago on Mars after a 6-month flight is operational and has started to transmit back its readings. The project which costs almost $1 billion, took 6 months to fly to Mars and landed on November 26.
InSight is ready and raring to go
The InSight rover is equipped with a 2-meter long mechanical arm that will be used to place scientific instruments on the surface of the Mars, which will be the first time humans would have done so on an alien planet. Insight is also equipped with 3 sensors to measure beneath the surface temperature, seismic readings (Marsquakes) and an antenna to detect the Mar’s north pole.
The rover has also unfurled its Solar Panel. The InSight Mars lander is taking these images using its robotic arm-mounted, Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC). The Mars rover’ IDC has taken several breathtaking photos of its surrounding landscape.
The rover which is also carrying the names of 2.4 million humans who signed up as a testimony to human endeavour, landed at a plain on Mars named Elysium Planitia near the equator.
Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) said, “Today 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”
InSight comes equipped with another camera called the Instrument Context Camera, located just under the lander’s deck that offers a view of the front of the lander, and
Long way go before full operational mode
The InSight team is proceeding with utmost caution and have stated that it may be another three months before all the instruments are readied, placed, and calibrated. The equipments are undergoing rigourous testing to ensure they are operational and working before being put to work.
One of the reasons this is being done is because it take 13 minutes for a signal to reach Mars from Earth so working in real time is not possible, hence, the scientists and engineers want to ensure that the equipments are working before being deployed.
First sounds from Mars
InSight doesn’t have a sound recorder as such but it has a very sensitive seismograph which can measure not just the motions on the surface of Mars but also motion caused by sound waves.
In fact, the sound waves weren’t planned to be recorded, but two extremely sensitive sensors on the Mars InSight rover, an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer, recorded the winds in two different ways.
“Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,”Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)
The hauntingly beautiful murmur was recorded from vibrations caused by the wind moving over the spacecraft’s solar panels. The solar panel almost acts like an eardrum and responds to the fluctuations of wind pressure. NASA engineers were then able to convert these fluctuations into sounds.
That’s literally what sound is — changes in air pressure, you hear that whenever you speak to someone across the room.Don Banfield InSight’s science lead for APSS from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
However, it is unlikely we will get to hear more such sounds as the seismometer which is currently still held securely in the rover’s arms will be deployed for its actual mission on the surface of the Mars.
The seismometer once deployed will measure the quakes called Marsquakes (ala Earthquakes), which will tell the scientists about the deep interior of the planet and help them understand the formation of planets in our solar system as well as that of our own planet, Earth.
Even clearer sounds are coming in two years
NASA’s planned rover 2020, another rover scheduled to land in 2020 has two microphones on board, one of them will record the sound of Mars landing and subsequent sounds. The other will record the sound of laser as it zaps different materials, telling the scientists the composition of the materials based on changes in sound frequency.
But in the meanwhile, listen to the below.