The InSight Mars lander has successfully unfurled its two fan-like solar arrays, allowing the robot to generate the power it will need to study the Martian interior for the next two years, NASA officials said late Monday (Nov. 26). NASA received confirmation that the solar arrays were deployed at 8:30 p.m. EST (0130 Nov. 27 GMT), about five-and-a-half hours after InSight landed on Mars.
“The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries,” Tom Hoffman, NASA’s InSight project manager here at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. “It’s been a long day for the team. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase.” [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Full Coverage]
Each of InSight’s two solar wings are 7 feet (2.2 meters) wide. When unfurled, the arrays give the lander a wingspan equivalent in size to a “big 1960s convertible,” NASA officials said in the same statement.
News of the solar array milestone came with a spectacular photo of Mars by InSight showing a view of the robot’s Elysium Planitia landing site as seen from the deck of the spacecraft.
“There’s a quiet beauty here,” the InSight mission team wrote on Twitter. “Looking forward to exploring my new home.” You can see more amazing InSight Mars landing day photos here.
NASA’s $850 million InSight mission is designed to probe the interior of Mars with a seismometer, heat probe and other instruments to study how the planet formed. Mission scientists hope that discoveries from InSight will shed light on mysteries of Earth’s own formation, as well as that of other terrestrial planets.
InSight (the name is short for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport”) launched toward the Red Planet on May 5.
Email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us and Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.