NASA/JPL
Martian Sandbox

NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Landed in a “Large Sandbox” at a Slight Angle

But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Victor TangermannDecember 1st 2018

Awkward Landing

NASA’s Insight Lander survived the harrowing journey through outer space, and has settled nicely on the Martian surface. And while it’s charging its batteries, new details are emerging about where exactly InSight landed.

The InSight team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California determined the spacecraft is actually sitting at a slightly tilted angle — roughly four degrees.

While that may sound like it could be an issue down the road, scientists at NASA have thought ahead: InSight could actually operate normally with an inclination of up to 15 degrees, according to an update on NASA’s website.

Land at the wrong angle, and collecting solar energy could prove more difficult. It could’ve also jeopardized InSight’s mission to probe the Martian surface to read the planet’s temperature, and detecting ground motion using its seismometer.

“A Large Sandbox”

There’s a lot of shallow dust and sand surrounding InSight’s impact crater — and that might actually turn out to be an advantage. “There are no landing pads or runways on Mars, so coming down in an area that is basically a large sandbox without any large rocks should make instrument deployment easier and provide a great place for our mole to start burrowing,” Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL, tells NASA.

Postcards From Mars

In a couple of days, InSight will (hopefully) be sending us some high-definition pictures of its surroundings. And those will give the team back on Earth a much better idea as to where to place InSight’s instruments for some scientific experiments within the next couple of months.

Otherwise, InSight is doing just fine. In fact, it just broke the “off-world record” for generating the most electrical power than any other previous lander on Mars — almost twice as much as Curiosity.

And that means all systems go. “The 4,588 watt-hours we produced during sol 1 means we currently have more than enough juice to perform these tasks and move forward with our science mission,” says Hoffman.

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