InSights Robotic Arm is Ready for Heavy Lifting

first_imgStay on target NASA’s Mars InSight lander shows off its robotic arm in a series of new images, released Thursday.Using the Instrument Deployment Camera on its elbow, the 6-foot-long limb snapped photos of the local terrain.These pictures, taken by the stationary spacecraft, will help the mission team determine where to set InSight’s seismometer and heat flow probe—the only tools to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet.“Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace,” Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.”NASA’s InSight spacecraft took a color-calibrated image of its robotic arm using its Instrument Deployment Camera (via NASA/JPL-Caltech)A second shooter—the Instrument Context Camera—is located under the lander’s deck, where it can capture admittedly less attractive views.“We had a protective cover on the Instrument Context Camera, but somehow dust still managed to get onto the lens,” InSight project manager Tom Hoffman lamented. “While this is unfortunate, it will not affect the role of the camera, which is to take images of the area in front of the lander where our instruments will eventually be placed.”Placement is critical, according to JPL; the team is proceeding with great caution. It may take as long as two or three months for the tools to be situated and calibrated just right.InSight was instructed to be extra careful during the first few weeks in its new home; anything unexpected can trigger a “fault”—a routine interruption that automatically halts operations (including making pictures) and asks for help from operators on the ground.A partial view of the deck of NASA’s InSight lander, where it stands on the Martian plains Elysium Planitia (via NASA/JPL-Caltech)“We did extensive testing on Earth. But we know that everything is a little different for the lander on Mars, so faults are not unusual,” Hoffman said. “They can delay operations, but we’re not in a rush. We want to be sure that each operation that we perform on Mars is safe, so we set our safety monitors to be fairly sensitive initially.”Engineers purposely factored extra time into their estimates for instrument deployment. The spacecraft is on a two-year mission, leaving plenty of time to gather data from the Red Planet.The system already recorded some alien input: A drop in air pressure, possibly caused by a passing dust devil, was detected by the pressure sensor.Part of the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem, that sensor, along with a magnetometer and set of wind and temperature sensors, will collect meteorological data.More on Lander Sets ‘Off-World’ Record on First DayBill Nye: Humans Living on Mars is ‘Science Fiction’Scientists Create Music ‘Soundtrack’ to a Mars Sunrise40 Incredible Images of the Surface of Mars NASA Names Martian Rock After Rolling StonesNASA’s InSight Lander Captures First Audio of ‘Marsquake’ last_img

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