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NASA's InSight Lander Touches Down and Digs Deep

NASA's InSight Lander Touches Down and Digs Deep

NASA’s InSight Mars Lander arrived at the Red Planet on Monday November 26th after travelling since early May towards its ultimate destination. Hurtling through icy space for six months wasn’t the tricky part, the rubber really hits the road (or Martian soil in this case) with the all-important landing.

NASA had previously dubbed the challenging time between a spacecraft hitting the Martian atmosphere to touchdown as “Seven Minutes of Terror”. Why do they refer to it as “Terror”? Because this entry, descent and landing sequence is so precise, so complex and is done without mission control being able to see what is happening as it plays out. Everyone in mission control holds their breath and waits for InSight to “call” home and say “I made it!”.

Luckily, Honeywell can instead make this “Seven Minutes of Awesome” because our Space team has built the product that guides the entry, descent and landing phase via 100% automated navigation – our Miniature Inertial Measurement Unit (MIMU).

The Honeywell MIMU is a combined effort from several of our Space sites. It is made up of: ACCELEROMETERS from Redmond, Washington; GYROS from Ridgway in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and APPLICATION-SPECIFIC INTEGRATED CIRCUITS (ASICS) from Plymouth, Minnesota. The Clearwater Space Team builds the boards, assembles the MIMU system and performs the testing. Two MIMU’s were installed on InSight, one to perform the job flawlessly and one for redundancy.

InSight’s Mission as a Martian Miner:

InSight will be the first mission dedicated to unlocking the secrets of the interior of Mars by digging deep into its interior for the first time. Using a drill that will burrow 5 meters underground on a planet over 140 million kilometers away, InSight will act as a Martian miner to send us valuable data on what lies far beneath the dusty surface.

While we’ve learned a lot about the Red Planet’s watery past and cold, desert present from the study of its surface on previous missions, we still know little about what’s going on deep inside Mars. What does the interior structure of the planet actually look like? How warm is it down there? Does Mars have “marsquakes”? These are all fundamental questions that will tell us about why Mars went from being a world of lakes and rivers, glaciers and volcanic eruptions, to the rusty desert we see today. This can also tell us about the history of Earth, and the evolution of our Solar System, by helping us to better understand how the rocky planets formed.

Want to know more detail about this fascinating mission? Learn more here: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

Credit: Insight photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Our Honeywell MIMU’s installed (the two black systems)

The Honeywell MIMU:

Patty Attwell
Marketing Communications Manager
Patty Attwell joined Honeywell during the 2016 acquisition of Canadian satellite payload and space systems experts, COM DEV International, where she was Manager of Global Corporate Communications. She is now the marketing communications manager for Honeywell's Space Enterprise, bringing together the amazing history of 60 years of leadership in space mission solutions; with our latest cutting-edge technology that will propel the emerging space markets of tomorrow.


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