The InSight lander has been on the surface of Mars since November 26 and has been preparing to deploy two of its main instruments. One of those instruments is a seismometer that is meant to detect marsquakes. NASA has announced that InSight has successfully placed that first instrument on the Martian soil.
InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman said that getting the seismometer safely on the ground is an “awesome Christmas present.” As the team has been working to get the seismometer and another instrument placed on the ground, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment or RISE has been using the radio connection to Earth to send data about the core of Mars.
RISE doesn’t have a separate instrument that needs to be placed on the ground to operate. The seismometer is officially called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure or SEIS. The heat probe, the other instrument needing to be placed on the ground, is called Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe.
With the seismometer placed, perhaps InSight will be ready to put the other instrument on the ground soon. The seismometer was gently placed on the ground in front of the lander about 5.367-feet away, which is as far as the robotic arm can reach.
To determine the best place to put the seismometer and heat probe, JPL scientists did create a replica of the space in front of InSight in their Califonia lab. The team will soon work on leveling the seismometer, the gound it is on right now tilts at 2-3 degrees. Science data will come to Earth after the leveling is complete.