InSight's successor, who landed on Mars on November 26th and successfully resumed its large solar array hours later, is already making entries.
During its full day on the Red Planet, the solar plant generated more electricity for a day than any previous Mars vehicle.
"It's nice to get our first" off-world record "on our first full day on Mars," says Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory Laboratory (JPL) in California, California. [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Amazing Landing Day Photos!]
"But even better than achieving the generation of more electricity from any mission before us is what it represents to carry out our upcoming engineering tasks," Hoffman added. "The 4.588 watts we produced during the 1st Salt means that at the moment we have more than enough juice to carry out these tasks and continue our scientific mission."
4.588 Watts-hour InSight, generated on the first sleep, or Mars day, from solar energy is over 2.806 watts-generated in a single day by NASA's Curiosity rover, which runs on a nuclear system called a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Arriving in third place was the Phoenix solar plant, which generated about 1800 watts in a day, according to NASA officials.
After sending his first photo to the landing site and expanding his two solar arrays, each of which is about 2.2 meters in diameter, InSight has to shoot photographs in its surroundings and unlock its robotic arm, which it will eventually use deploy seismometers and a thermal probe to find out about the interior of Mars.
And the mission team members are busy checking the images they have received so far to learn more about the InSight target site, a lion plane called Elysium Planitia. They found that the spacecraft was tilted about 4 degrees, as the statement said, into a crater with shallow impacts filled with dust and sand. (This is not a big deal; the ice can work up to 15 degrees.) A steep slope could damage the ability of the spacecraft to get enough energy from its solar arrays, and landing near the rocks could easily keep the spacecraft discovering the two arrays, say the researchers.
"The scientific team hoped to land in a sandy area with several rocks, because we chose the landing place so we could not be happier," Hoffman said in a statement. "There are no places to land or run on Mars, so we are coming down to an area that is basically a large sand without large rocks to facilitate the deployment of the instruments and provide a great place for our mole to begin to bury."
So far, the team believes that the immediate area has several rocks, but later images come later, after the spacecraft releases clear dust covers above its two cameras, will give a more specific view of the surrounding area. The team will use these views to plan exactly how the spacecraft will put its instruments with its mechanical hand.
"We look forward to photographing more definitely to confirm this preliminary assessment," said InSight chief researcher Bruce Banner, also in the JPL, in a statement. "If these few images – by covering the dust to reduce the resolution – are correct, it's good for the deployment of the instrument and for breaking the moths of our underwater heat experiment."
The $ 850 million InSight mission should last a year from Mars, or nearly two Earth years. The data collected by the iceberg will help mission members to point out the internal structure of the Red Planet with unprecedented detail, NASA officials say. This information, however, should reveal the key knowledge of the formation of rocky planets in general.