InSight Mars lander deploys seismometer shield

The robot arm aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander has completed deployment of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS, instrument by lowering a protective enclosure over the ultra-sensitive device. Provided by the French Space Agency CNES, SEIS is designed to measure Mars quakes, meteoroid impacts and any other disturbances that managed to shake the red planet, allowing researchers to build up a three-dimensional map of the martian interior.

A dome-like wind and thermal shield now encloses an ulta-sensitive French-built seismometer placed on the surface of Mars by NASA’s InSight lander. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The seismometer was lifted from InSight’s upper deck and placed on the surface 19 December. The dome-like wind and thermal shield seen here was lowered over SEIS instrument on 2 February. Because the instrument measures vibrations on the order of half the radius of a hydrogen atom, it must be protected from external forces like the martian wind and the effects of temperature extremes.

A view of the SEIS instrument before the wind and thermal shield was lowered into place. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With SEIS now in place, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will focus on deploying InSight’s other major instrument, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, designed to hammer itself into the soil near the spacecraft to measure sub-surface temperatures. The instrument was provided by the German Space Agency.