On May 5th, 2018, NASA launched the InSight lander into space with the intention of guiding it to the planet Mars, and then landing it safely. On November 26th, 2018, InSight successfully touched down onto the surface of the planet Mars. Now, for the next two years here on Earth, InSight will conduct experiments on Mars’s inner layers. InSight will monitor the planet’s internal temperature, earthquakes, and other seismic events all while being powered by solar panels.
The engineers at NASA had to find answers to a lot of questions to get InSight launched. And one of those questions was “How will it be powered?” Their answer was simple: solar energy. Although the sun is further away from Mars, it is still able to send heat, light, and energy there. NASA knows that the sun offers limitless power, and it equipped InSight to get as much of it as possible.
In order to guide InSight to Mars, the spacecraft carrying it was outfitted with various navigation tools, and solar panels, which kept those navigation tools up and running. The InSight lander was equipped with two, 7-foot wide solar panel arrays that when deployed generate as much as 700 watts on clear days. For us, that amount of energy would be enough for a blender. But for InSight, 700 watts is enough to run the various scientific experiments it’s equipped to do, as well as eventually send the results back home. The NASA mission controllers received a signal from InSight confirming that after landing, the solar panels were fully opened and were charging the batteries. InSight has truly begun its mission.
This isn’t the first time NASA has looked to solar energy to charge a lander, either. In 2007, the Mars lander Phoenix was deployed, and also used solar energy to charge its batteries upon arrival.
Mission InSight is exciting, not just because of what we’ll learn about Mars, but also because this shows just how much solar power can do. We can already use solar energy to power our homes and businesses. NASA has harnessed the power of the sun to not only pursue knowledge on another planet, but also to travel across the stars to get there. It’s very clear that by using the power of our sun, we can accomplish what was once impossible. ADT Solar is excited to see where this remarkable energy can take us next.
All images and videos Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.