InSight Mission Breaks ‘Off-World’ Record On Its First Day On Mars

Bill IngallsNASA via Getty Images

On November 26, the entire world watched in awe as NASA’s InSight mission landed on Mars after seven months of space travel. Now that the dust from the epic Mars landing has settled, new data is pouring in from the touchdown location at Elysium Planitia — revealing all sorts of good news about the pioneering InSight spacecraft.

According to a fresh report from the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the InSight lander has not only survived the harrowing entry, descent, and landing sequence — referred to as “the seven minutes of terror,” the Inquisitr previously reported — but it’s doing phenomenally well.

The latest data downlinked yesterday from the spacecraft unveiled that InSight had an amazing first day on Mars and even managed to break its first “off-world record” within hours of being there.

The first major milestone since landing on Mars came just five hours after InSight touched down on the red planet, when the spacecraft successfully deployed its solar arrays and began to recharge its batteries after the long flight through space. During that time, InSight also took its first selfie on Mars, as reported by the Inquisitr earlier this week.

While the spacecraft was basking in the sun, enjoying the comforts of its new home, the lander’s two solar panels were busy storing up energy. As it later turned out, their performance completely exceeded all expectations — generating more electrical power than any other vehicle to ever land on Mars.

The first Martian solar day (sol) spent by InSight on the red planet was very productive indeed. During the first sol of its mission, the spacecraft soaked up enough sunlight to produce 4,588 watt-hours of energy.

That’s nearly twice the amount of energy generated by the Curiosity rover when it first landed on Mars in 2012 and almost three times as much “juice” as the Phoenix Lander managed to scare up after touching down on Martian ground in 2008.

The other five robotic missions that made it to Mars since humanity first began exploring our planetary neighbor generated even fewer watt-hours on their first sol — as shown by the graphic below, released yesterday by NASA.

This graphic compares the amount of energy ever generated in a single sol (Martian day) by NASA rovers and landers on the red planet.
This graphic compares the amount of energy ever generated in a single sol (Martian day) by NASA rovers and landers on the red planet.Featured image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“It is great to get our first ‘off-world record’ on our very first full day on Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL. “But even better than the achievement of generating more electricity than any mission before us is what it represents for performing our upcoming engineering tasks.”

“The 4,588 watt-hours we produced during sol 1 means we currently have more than enough juice to perform these tasks and move forward with our science mission.”

Over the following days, InSight will be investigating the Martian landscape and snapping high-resolution photos of its landing site so that scientists back at mission control can get a clearer view of the terrain. This will help the team establish where to deploy InSight’s main science instruments — the SEIS seismometer and the HP3 thermal probe.

The most recent batch of photos and telemetry data beamed back by the InSight lander on November 30 revealed that the spacecraft descended down on a shallow, dust-filled crater within the Elysium Planitia. In addition, the data showed that the spacecraft touched down at a slight angle and is positioned at a four-degree tilt, the Inquisitr reported earlier today.