Sol 63 image taken by InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on January 30, 2019. Robotic arm with grapple fingers hovers over soon-to-be- deployed Wind and Thermal Shield.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s InSight Mars lander is moving toward another deployment milestone in readying the probe for performing an agenda of scientific duties.

The InSight team finished fine-tuning the cable position last Sunday, the tether link to the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) now in position on the surface of Mars.

Sol 63: InSight’s Instrument Context Camera (ICC) acquired this image on January 30, 2019. The InSight team has finished fine-tuning the tether link to the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) now on the surface of Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Operators are ready to make use of the five mechanical fingers of a robotic arm grapple to pick up the Wind and Thermal Shield (WTS), placing it on top of the SEIS.


“On Tuesday, we commanded the final stereo imaging of the SEIS in order to precisely localize its position for planning the arm motions to deploy WTS, and then positioned the grapple just above the WTS post,” said W. Bruce Banerdt, Principal Investigator of the InSight mission.

Artist concept showing the protective role of the wind and thermal shield (WTS) at the martian surface.
Credit: IPGP/David Ducros

Yesterday, the plan called for sending commands to grasp the WTS, Banerdt told Inside Outer Space. Today is a rest day for the operations team, he said, “and if everything goes according to plan we will command the WTS deployment on Friday, with confirmation images coming down on Saturday.”

Handle with care

InSight’s robotic arm is also slated to later deploy the heat flow probe – a mole that burrows 16 feet (five meters) into the ground. That’s deeper than any instrument that has ever been to Mars.

The grapple fingers close around a handle that resembles a ball on top of a stem. Each of the three items – the seismometer, the Wind and Thermal
Shield, and the heat flow probe, have one of these handles.

This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. Robot arm would deploy the sensitive Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) device, white object in foreground.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Honeycomb structure

The WTS consists of an aerodynamically shaped aluminum cover with a honeycomb structure to which is attached a gold-coated thermal skirt.

The whole assembly rests on three legs that are to deploy automatically once the robotic arm lifts the dome off the lander’s platform.

Despite its design, the WTS could be struck by violent gusts of wind or a dust devil, forces that might dislodge or even lift the dome, causing it to fly away.

The shield has nonetheless been developed to withstand squalls of 60 meters per second and should even be able to survive winds of 100 meters per second.

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