NASA’s InSight Lander Deploys Shield on Marsquake Detecting Seismometer

NASA’s InSight lander deployed its Wind and
Thermal Shield on Feb. 2, 2019 (Sol 66). The shield covers InSight’s
seismometer, which was set down onto the Martian surface on Dec. 19. Credits:
Ken Kremer &
– 4 February 2019

 NASA’s InSight lander has deployed the
protective shield covering the Marsquake detecting seismometer instrument
placed onto the Red Planet’s surface in mid-December. 

Since then the
science and engineering team has been carefully making adjustments
to the positioning of
the SEIS seismometer on the surface to optimize its data collection.

The covering is called
the ‘
Wind and Thermal Shield’ and was placed over SEIS this past
weekend on Saturday Feb. 2, 2019 (Sol 66). 

The shield protects the supersensitive SEIS instrument
from passing winds and temperature fluctuation which could cause excessive
noise and ruin the science data gathering measurements. 

The landers robotic arm was initially maneuvered
to deploy SEIS to the surface on Dec. 19. On Saturday, the arm was again put in
motion to place the ‘Wind and
Thermal Shield’ over SEIS. 

“Now it’s reached another milestone by placing a domed shield over
the seismometer to help the instrument collect accurate data,” NASA announced
in a statement today, Feb 4. 

“The seismometer will give scientists their first look at the deep
interior of the Red Planet, helping them understand how it and other rocky
planets are formed.”
SEIS leveling and
lowering to the surface of the Red Planet. Credit: NASA

SEIS is the first seismometer ever placed on the surface of
another planet and will be used to measure seismic waves caused by marsquakes,
meteorite strikes and other phenomena on Mars.

This cut-through view of the SEIS seismometer shows the dome-shaped wind and thermal shield (WTS), the remote warm box (RWEB), the levelling platform, and the inside of the evacuated sphere protecting the VBB pendulums (©IPGP/David Ducros).

“Temperature is one of our biggest bugaboos,” said
InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement. JPL leads the InSight
mission and built the Wind and Thermal Shield. 

“Think of the shield as putting a cozy over your food on a
table. It keeps SEIS from warming up too much during the day or cooling off too
much at night. In general, we want to keep the temperature as steady as

deploying the shield SEIS has been leveling and lowering itself closer to the

NASA’s InSight lander
placed its seismometer on Mars on Dec. 19, 2018. This was the first time a
spacecraft robotically placed a seismometer onto the surface of another planet.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight touched down softly on the Red Planet just
two months ago days after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, 2018 as programmed inside
the 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) targeted landing ellipse  on the plains of
Elysium Planitia.’

SEIS is the first of two deck
mounted science instruments that will be deployed to the Red Planet’s surface over
the next few months.

The next step is to
deploy the
heat flow probe, called the Heat Flow and
Physical Properties Package (HP3), onto the Martian surface. NASA
says that could happen as early as next week. 

InSight soft landed on Mars just over two
months ago on Nov 26, 2018, following a 7 month, 301 million mile (484 million
km) interplanetary journey from Earth. She now starts a 2-year mission to
explore the Red Planet’s mysterious deep interior.

This is NASA InSight’s
first selfie on Mars. It displays the lander’s solar panels and deck. On top of
the deck are its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna. The
selfie was taken on Dec. 6, 2018 (Sol 10).  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

in an international science mission. Loaded aboard are the two primary science
instruments provided by European partners from France and Germany: The SEIS
seismometer and  HP3 heat flow
measuring instrument.

SEIS seismometer instrument is equipped with a trio of incredibly precise seismometers
to detect marsquakes and was provided by the Centre National d’Études Spatiales
(CNES) – the French national space agency equivalent to NASA.  

other instrument measuring heat flow from the Martian interior is provided by
the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and is named Heat Flow and Physical Properties
Package (HP3).  

The HP3
hammering mole will pound about 5 meters (16 feet) deep into Mars pulling
the science heat flow cable tether along to make heat flow and temperature measurements.   It will pause multiple times along the way down
to make detailed measurements at different depths of heat flow from the planets

Watch for Ken’s continuing
onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman
and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science
and human spaceflight news: – – twitter
@ken_kremer – email: ken at

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist,
journalist and photographer based in the KSC area.

Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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