first_img NASA’s InSight lander reached another milestone this week when it successfully placed a dome over the attached seismometer.The Wind and Thermal Shield does pretty much what its name suggests: protects the sensitive instrument from heavy breezes and changing temperatures.“Temperature is one of our biggest bugaboos,” InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.While gusts of air might add some pesky “noise” to the collected data, fluctuations in climate can mess with the seismometer’s internal organs, expanding or contracting its metal parts.“Think of the shield as putting a cozy over your food on a table,” Banerdt said. “It keeps SEIS from warming up too much during the day or cooling off too much at night. In general, we want to keep the temperature as steady as possible.”In the area InSight landed, temperatures shift by about 170℉ over the course of one Martian day, or sol.On Earth, these sorts of machines are usually buried four feet underground in vaults, which regulate conditions. InSight can’t build a vault on Mars, though, so it relies on several safety measures—the first of which is a shield.A second line of defense is the SEIS itself, which is specially engineered to correct for wild temperature swings.The fact that the seismometer is vacuum-sealed in a titanium sphere that insulates its sensitive insides and reduces the influence of temperature also helps.“But even that isn’t quite enough,” NASA said.The copper-colored hexagonal box surrounding SEIS serves as yet another insulating layer, its walls honeycombed with cells that trap air.The machine allows Earth-bound scientists to study ground motion, or “marsquakes,” within the planet. Each quake, according to NASA, acts as a sort of flashbulb to illuminate interior Martian structure. By analyzing how seismic waves move through the orb, scientists can deduce depth and composition of its layers.And, now that the seismometer is comfy and cozy, InSight’s team can move on to the next step: deploying the heat flow probe.The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) is expected to be moved onto the Martian surface next week.More on Recorded the Sounds of Mars (And It’s Almost All Creepy Bass)InSight Lander Sets ‘Off-World’ Record on First DayWatch: NASA Space Technologies Are Also in Play at Super Bowl LIII Stay on target NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendScientists Discover Possible Interstellar Visitor last_img read more