Northrop Grumman workers ensure that the first west coast interplanetary mission can conduct scientific activities in the coming months
Jim Spink, of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems in Goleta, is holding a model of the InSight LG while chatting with employees shortly after noon on Monday. The lander managed to reach the surface of the red planet and deploy its solar panels. (Photo by Janene Scully / Noozhawk)
The NASA InSight Mars lander acquired this image on Monday with the help of its robotic camera mounted on the arm. InSight landed at mid-day after heading for space aboard an Atlas V rocket that took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in May. In addition to the confirmation of the deployed and charged solar forces, the transmission also included this view of the instrument deployment camera, showing the seismometer (left), the grapple (center) and the robotic arm (right). (NASA photo)
After a foggy departure from Vandenberg Air Force Base in May and a fiery descent on Monday, the last NASA lander arrived on the surface of the red planet, sparking the celebration of the Goleta company that manufactured the key components.
"Touch down confirmed. InSight is on the surface of Mars, "said a NASA employee, highlighting the latest milestone for several milestones to garner applause and applause from employees of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems in Goleta.
Then they waited.
The Goleta force has developed the UltraFlex solar collector system, an essential element for keeping the batteries charged, so that Mars InSight – Indoor exploration using seismic surveys, geodesy and heat transport – can carry out its scientific mission during two terrestrial years.
These wings have 3,200 solar cells, each segment being stored for the flight and ready for deployment, which amounts to opening a Chinese fan soon after landing.
But because of the location of other spacecraft used to relay Mars communications and orbital mechanics, NASA officials have not received confirmation of the deployment of the solar generator for more than five hours.
"I'm just relieved, but nervous and excited," said Jim Spink, head of the Northrop Grumman program, early Monday afternoon. "There is a lot of attention focused on the deployment of the bay. Everyone involved in the mission knows if berries are not working, it's a bad day. "
Later Monday, NASA officials provided the last good news.
"The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know that the spacecraft's solar panels are deployed and are recharging the batteries," said Tom Hoffman, InSight's project manager at the lab. NASA's jet propulsion system in Pasadena.
These solar panels, each 7 feet long when open, provide 600 to 700 watts on a clear day, enough to power a domestic mixer and scientific instruments from InSight, said NASA officials.
"We are absolutely delighted that our UltraFlex solar panels are both deployed and powering Mars InSight," said Spink. "We design them carefully and test them thoroughly. So we are always confident that they will work as intended. But it's still a huge relief to get confirmation of success.
Employees of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems in Goleta applaud hearing NASA officials announce that InSight had landed on March Monday afternoon. The Goleta facility has designed the solar panels needed to maintain the InSight system. (Photo by Janene Scully / Noozhawk)
"Everyone here understands what is at stake and we are very proud to make sure that everything goes well, as they did today."
Spink also revealed that the berries had a small light label bearing the names of the Goleta employees at the time of wing construction.
On Monday, Northrop Grumman workers gathered in Goleta's break room for a pizza night, while viewing NASA's cover, one of the many viewing sessions that took place in Santa's County. Barbara and around the world, including a screen at Times Square in New York.
"Super exciting, is not it?" Said Spink to his workers before confirming that the confirmation of the solar panel deployment would take time, prompting the joke to order more pizzas for a second celebration.
For the Goleta-based workers, the first west coast mission, which was supposed to travel to another planet in early May 5, should have seen their work moving toward space from their own backyard. .
"The best launch we've ever heard," said Spink, referring to the incredibly foggy morning that prevented thousands of spectators at Lompoc from seeing the take off.
Goleta employs 130 people, including around 50 in the manufacture of InSight solar panels at different times over a period of about two years. Northrop Grumman workers across the country were also responsible for some of the other components of InSight, added Spink.
It was Mars' third mission on Goleta's solar panel system, but only the second to reach the red planet.
The first mission, Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, was canceled, but served as a template for future designs.
Details from other missions have led to innovations aimed at making more robust solar panels, such as replacing components described by Spink as "fairly light and delicate", but needing to withstand Martian winds.
"So if you imagine it's an umbrella on the beach, you have to prevent it from turning around," Spink told his colleagues.
The Goleta and Vandenberg links are not the only links on the central coast.
A pair of size-sized boats, called Mars Cube One or MarCO, which docked at the Atlas V rocket with InSight marked the first time that the tiny spacecraft has played a role in an interplanetary mission. The MarCO team included two trainees from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, NASA officials said.
InSight, whose main contractor was Lockheed Martin Corp., had to survive several extremely dangerous maneuvers down the surface of the red planet.
Shortly after arriving, InSight took a picture – through a dust cover – of its view of the red planet, confirming the relatively flat location with some rocks, sought by the scientists of the destination site.
A second clearer image of InSight, which measures 3 feet tall, arrived Monday night.
The scientific mission of InSight will not start for a few months, because the team must unpack the instruments to be able to start collecting data on the inside of Mars, including the temperature and the earthquakes, information which, according to them, the will help educate them on Earth.
"There is a quiet beauty here. Looking forward to exploring my new homeland, "InSight human helpers posted to the site NASA InSight Twitter page Monday after landing.