InSight lander sets first tool on Martian ground

Seismometer on Mars
An image from NASA’s InSight lander shows the probe’s robotic arm putting a seismometer on Mars. This is the first time a seismometer has been placed onto the surface of another planet. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Photo)

After three weeks of checking out the scene on the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight landerhas placed its first scientific instrument on the Martian surface.

The probe’s robotic arm pulled InSight’s seismometer, known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure or SEIS, from the spacecraft’s deck on Dec. 19 and slowly, gingerly set it down on a flat spot directly in front of the lander. The arm stretched out to nearly its maximum reach, 5.367 feet away from the deck.

Deploying SEIS is a major milestone for InSight’s two-year mission to monitor seismic activity and internal heat flow on the Red Planet. (The mission’s name is an acronym that stands for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.”)

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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