Using tools that range from rakes and spades to augmented reality headsets, engineers with NASA's Mars InSight mission have built a Marshmallow rock garden that recreates the new home of the probe on Mars. This allows engineers to practice placing scientific instruments on the surface using the Earth-bound InSight twin – ForeSight.
December 22, 2018
Using tools that range from rakes and blades to augmented reality headsets, engineers with the NASA Mars Discernment The mission has built a Martian rock garden that recreates the new home of the probe on Mars. This allows engineers to practice placing scientific instruments on the surface using Intuitions Earthbound Twin – ForeSight.
Engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) built the rock garden based on photos taken by Intuitions cameras. The team used rakes and shovels to shape a bed of gravel-like material called granada, which is used to simulate martian sand.
These Earth-based explorers were able to combine Intuitions landing by using Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headphones that projected digital terrain models from the landing site on the test platform. The perimeter of the area where the two scientific instruments would be placed was marked with wooden blocks and precision cameras in the laboratory were used to measure each feature they intended to replicate.
Building the rock garden, which mimics every detail up to pebbles or rocks larger than an inch (2 centimeters), took about four hours. Fortunately, a mosaic image of the spacecraft's workspace, released last week, shows that the area is smooth and virtually rock-free.
"It's great for the science we want to do," said Marleen Sundgaard of JPL, who is leading the test work. "It's the parking lot that the landing team has promised us. You calculate the probability of rocks in the area and expect the odds to be in your favor."
NASA sent the commands to Discernment to land his seismograph on Mars on Tuesday, December 18. In a few days, Sundgaard and his colleagues will be waiting to see the first images of their work being reproduced on Mars.
The latest addition to NASA's family of Martian explorers has been as busy as the crew that ran it on the ground. The 794 lbs (360 kg) lander was ordered to place the seismograph on Tuesday, December 18, which was completed the next day in front of him. Given that the vehicle is stationary, it can only move / put things within the length of its arm (5,367 feet or 1,636 feet).
With this instrument in place, scientists returning to Earth should be able to better understand the "happenings" within the Red Planet by listening to how the planet moves.
"The deployment of seismometers is just as important as InSight on Mars," said Bruce Banerdt, also of JPL. "The seismograph is the highest priority instrument at InSight: we need it to complete about three-quarters of our scientific goals."
Video provided by NASA / JPL-Caltech
Tagged: InSight Jet Propulsion Laboratory ForeSight NASA The Range
Jim Sharkey is a laboratory assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan, he participated in the card campaign that resulted in the prototype of the space shuttle called Enterprise.
Although his scholarly studies ranged from psychology and archeology to biology, he never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim started blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004.
Jim lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and participated in NASA Socials for the Mars rover flight of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity and for the launch of the lunar spacecraft NASA LADEE.