InSight: NASA’s probe on Mars with Italian technologies
NASA’s InSight probe that will explore the interior structure of Mars has successfully landed on the Martian soil and has sent back its first image. The US mission carries some Italian technologies which already made their valuable contribution during the probe’s long journey from Earth to the Red Planet.
InSight travelled for more than six months guided by a star tracker built by the Italian company Leonardo in Campi Bisenzio, near Florence. The instrument provided the spacecraft with all the necessary information to keep travelling in the right direction, by tracking its position against a map of three thousand stars, stored inside, 10 times per second.
InSight also carries on board the LaRRI-Laser Retro-Reflector for InSight instrument, composed of the latest generation of micro-reflectors, which will provide the right position of the lander during its exploration of Martian soil. Weighing 25 gr, with a diameter of 54 mm and a height of 19, LaRRI will help test Einstein’s general relativity and will be one of the first “stations” of a future Martian network for geophysical and physical measurements. It will also be used to obtain a better measurement of the prime meridian of Mars. LaRRI was developed by the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) with the support of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
“The landing of NASA’s InSight probe represents a step forward for humanity”, said the Extraordinary Commissioner of the Italian Space Agency, Piero Benvenuti. “Scientific research and the resulting discoveries, in fact, offer the opportunity to widen our knowledge of the Universe and its evolution. Italy has made a strong commitment to this cause, also thanks to the Italian Space Agency, and we are at the forefront of Mars exploration. We could say that there is no probe studying Mars without the Italian contribution”, Benvenuti concluded.