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UK plays key role in Mars landing

UK space scientists and researchers were celebrating yesterday after successfully landing on Mars.

After a seven-month, 300 million-mile journey, US space agency NASA landed its Mars InSight lander on the dusty surface of the red planet shortly before 8pm on Monday, 27 November.

The InSight lander carries three instruments designed and built in the UK as part of the seismic package, supported by a £4million grant from the UK Space Agency. These microseismometer sensors were developed by Imperial College London and integrated with electronics built by the University of Oxford, supported by UK Research and Innovation’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) RAL Space.

Dr Rain Irshad, Autonomous Systems Group Leader at STFC RAL Space, said: “I’m thrilled that the landing was so successful – it’s a real testament to the brilliant engineering work put in to the project by teams from across the US and Europe. Now we get to explore the inside of Mars.”

Previous Mars missions have focused on exploring the planet’s surface, but this mission is dedicated to exploring the planet’s structure beneath the surface – specifically looking at how the planet formed by listening in to seismic activity.

The lander will listen to the waves travelling through the planet from Marsquakes to build up a picture of the planet’s structure – the same technique used by geologists to understand the make-up of the Moon and Earth.

The instrument team will be joined by UK seismologists to analyse the data from all of the mission’s instruments.

The lander also has a primary seismometer and will use a heat probe to monitor the heat of the planet.

Further information

UK Space Agency website.