Delicate solar panels of Martian lander are tested before launch

solar panels

Lockheed Martin Space

THESE intricate solar panels will help unlock the deepest secrets of Mars. They were opened in a test facility at Lockheed Martin’s Space division in Colorado as part of a check of NASA’s InSight lander. The craft is due to blast off on its journey to the surface of the Red Planet in May.

If it lands successfully six months later at Elysium Planitia, a plain straddling the Martian equator, there will be a 16-minute pause to let the dust settle before the photovoltaic arrays unfold like delicate Japanese fans. This design minimises mass and volume in flight, but will maximise the panels’ efficacy on Mars, where the sun’s intensity is a third of that on Earth. Both panels are about 2.2 metres in diameter and their solar cells are similar to those used on Earth, but specifically tuned for the limited light on Mars. In optimum conditions there, they will feed 600 to 700 watts of electricity to the craft’s batteries.


That store of energy will be vital to InSight’s two-year mission. Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, it is a static lab packed with instruments designed to probe the guts of Mars. Because the planet’s interior calmed more rapidly than that of Earth, its ancient internal structures are much better preserved, and will tell us a lot about how the core, mantle and crust of rocky planets form.

Photograph
Lockheed Martin Space

This article appeared in print under the headline “Sun flowers”

More on these topics:

Source Article from https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23731640-400-delicate-solar-panels-of-martian-lander-are-tested-before-launch/?utm_campaign=RSS%7CNSNS&utm_source=NSNS&utm_medium=RSS&campaign_id=RSS%7CNSNS-