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UK celebrates successful landing of NASA Mars mission

A mission to Mars, with a key on-board instrument built by a UK team, has successfully touched down on the Red Planet today and will soon begin studying the heart of the planet.

NASA’s Mars InSight lander is a mission to find out more about the Red Planet and how it originally formed by studying its quakes. The InSight lander carries three instruments designed and built in the UK as part of the seismic package including a key instrument built by STFC’s RAL Space, supported by a £4million grant from the UK Space Agency. These microseismometer sensors were developed by Imperial College London and integrated with electronics built by the University of Oxford, supported by STFC RAL Space.

Dr Rain Irshad, Autonomous Systems Group Leader at STFC RAL Space, said: “I’m thrilled that the landing was so successful – it’s a real testament to the brilliant engineering work put in to the project by teams from across the US and Europe. Now we get to explore the inside of Mars.”

Previous Mars missions have focused on exploring the planet’s surface, but this mission is dedicated to exploring the planet’s structure beneath the surface – specifically looking at how the planet formed by listening in to seismic activity.

The lander will listen to the waves travelling through the planet from Marsquakes to build up a picture of the planet’s structure – the same technique used by geologists to understand the make-up of the Moon and Earth.

The instrument team will be joined by UK seismologists to analyse the data from all of the mission’s instruments.

The lander also has a primary seismometer and will use a heat probe to monitor the heat of the planet.

More information on the UK Space Agency website.


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