Skip to main content

InSight Engineers Have Made a Martian Rock Garden


NASA's InSight lander is due to set its first science instrument on Mars in the coming days. But engineers here on Earth already saw it happen - last week.
Like NASA's Curiosity rover, InSight has a full-scale working model at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This sister lander, aptly named ForeSight, lets the team test all operations before they happen on Mars.
To practice how InSight will place its instruments, JPL engineers built a Martian rock garden modeled on images from the spacecraft's cameras. The team raked, shoveled and patted down a bed of crushed garnet intended to simulate Martian sand. They call the shaping of this gravel-like material "Marsforming."
A four-inch (10-centimeter) layer of garnet was added to the lab space in order to match the height and slope of the surface in front of InSight. Donning augmented-reality headsets allowed the team to project digital terrain models of the landing site onto the test bed, checking whether they needed to scoop more gravel into the space or smooth it out. Wood blocks marked the perimeter of the areas where the lander's seismometer and heat flow probe could be placed; precision cameras in the lab were used to measure each feature they intended to replicate. It took about four hours to mimic every detail, down to any pebbles or rocks larger than an inch (2 centimeters).
Larger rocks present various challenges, both to the lander and the instruments it will place on the planet's surface. The team has to make sure the electrical-wire-laden tethers that connect the instruments to the spacecraft won't catch on or abrade against a sharp rock. Thankfully, a composite image of the workspace released last week revealed the area was smooth and largely rock-free, making the job easier than expected.
"It's great for the science we want to do," said JPL's Marleen Sundgaard, who is guiding the test-bed work. "It's the flat parking lot the landing team promised us. You calculate the probability of rocks in the area and hope the odds are in your favor."
The odds have been very much in favor for InSight. "All around us, there are rocks that were ejected from nearby craters. These can be launched miles across the landscape, depending on the impact size," said Nate Williams, a JPL post-doctoral researcher working with the mission. "Thankfully, there just aren't a lot of rocks right in front of us."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lyon vs Barcelona: Lionel Messi and teammates get important draw in France

- Lyon vs Barcelona game in the Champions League round of 16 tie ended goalless on Tuesday night, February 19 - Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes of Lyon was superb for his club as he denied the likes of Lionel Messi and Dembele - Barcelona will have the chance in the second leg playing in front of their fans at the Camp Nou Lyon were on Tuesday night, February 19, forced to a goalless draw by visiting Spanish giants Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 encounter. The French club have never beaten the Catalan giants in their history, and Lyon players wanted to break this record, but Barcelona proved an hard nut for them to crack. Barcelona got the first chance of the game in the 5th minute when Gerard Pique sent a long ball to Dembele who was in a good position, but he failed to utilize the opportunity. Lionel Messi and Suarez also combined well three minutes later to beat Lyon defense, but goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was brilliant to deny them. Lyon's got their b…

Plateau governorship election is inconclusive - INEC

- Pateau state governorship election has been declared inconclusive - The commission said the total number of votes cancelled is more than the difference in the number of votes the two major candidates got - The total number of votes cancelled in the state is 49, 347, while the total margin between leading candidates is 44, 929 The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday, March 11, declared the governorship elections in Plateau state inconclusive. Professor Richard Kimbir, the Returning Officer for the election in the state announced this on Monday in Jos, after collating results from the 17 local government areas of the state, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports. Kimbir, who is the Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, said the total number of votes cancelled is more than the difference in the number of votes the two major candidates got, “hence was constrained to declare the polls inconclusive”. The returning officer said Simon Lalon…

Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn seeks permission to attend board meeting on Tuesday - Yomiuri

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is seeking permission from the Tokyo District Court to attend the company's board meeting on Tuesday, Yomiuri newspaper reported on Monday. The Tokyo District Court is expected to decide whether it will give permission as soon as Monday, the report said. Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp plan to set up a joint board meeting structure to discuss issues related to their alliance in a step towards integration of operations, TV Tokyo reported on Sunday.