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NASA's InSight spacecraft halfway to Mars, all instruments work well



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From NASA // August 22, 2018

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ABOUT VIDEO: What's new about Mars? A global dust storm begins to calm down, but still obscures the Martian surface; the Curiosity Rover turns six and drills a new stone sample; The InSight Lander is more than halfway to Mars and has tested its instruments and cameras.

(NASA) – NASA's InSight spacecraft on its way to landing on Mars on November 26 has passed the halftime mark on August 6. All instruments have been tested and work well.

As of Aug. 20, the spacecraft had covered 172 million miles (277 million kilometers) since its launch 107 days ago. In another 98 days, it will travel another 129 million miles (208 million kilometers) and land in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars, where it will be the first mission to study the deep interior of the Red Planet. InSight stands for Interior Exploration with Seismic Investigations, Geodäsy and Heat Transport.

The InSight team uses the time before Mars arrived on Mars not only to plan and practice on this critical day, but also to activate and validate space systems for cruises, landings, and surface operations, including the highly sensitive ones scientific instruments.

InSight's Seismometer, which was designed to detect the earthquake on Mars, received a clean health certificate on July 19th. The SEIS (Internal Structure Seismic Experiment) instrument is a six-sensor seismometer that combines two types of sensors to measure ground motion over a wide frequency range. It will give scientists an insight into the internal activity of Mars.

This long-exposure image (24 seconds) was taken by the Instrument Context Camera (ICC) of NASA's InSight Mars Lander. The picture shows some of the inner features of the rear wall that encases the spacecraft. The backshell carries the parachute and several components used during the later stages of entry, descent and landing. Together with the heat shield, the shell protects the NASA InSight Mars Lander during its journey to and into the Martian atmosphere. (NASA Image)

"We conducted our final performance checks on July 19, which were successful," said Bruce Banerdt, Principal Investigator of InSight, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The team also reviewed an instrument that will measure the amount of heat escaping from Mars. After placement on the surface, the InSight Heat Flow and Physical Properties (HP3) device uses a self-hammering mechanical mole that penetrates to a depth of 3 to 5 meters.

Measurements with sensors on the mole and on a science ribbon from the mole to the surface will yield the first accurate determination of the amount of heat escaping from within the planet. The check-out consisted of turning on the main electronics for the instrument, checking its instrument sensor elements, running some of the instrument's internal heaters, and reading the stored settings in the electronics module.

The third of InSight's three main studies – Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE) – uses the spacecraft's radio link to Earth to assess disturbances in Mars's axis of rotation. These measurements can provide information about the nucleus of the planet.

"We've been using the spacecraft radio since launch day, and our discussions with InSight have been very cordial, so we're also good with RISE," said Banerdt.

Lander's cameras were also alright, taking a spacecraft selfie of the interior of the spaceship back. JPL's InSight project manager Tom Hoffman said, "If you're an engineer at InSight, that first glimpse of the heat shield blanket, tie wraps, and cover screws is a very reassuring sight as it tells us our instrument context camera works perfectly." Next picture that we want to do with this camera will be from the surface of Mars. "

If everything goes according to plan, the camera will take the first picture of Elysium Planitia after InSight lands on Mars.

JPL manages InSight for the NASA Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, which is managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including Cruise Stage and Lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver

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