Join Donate

Emily LakdawallaDecember 11, 2014

InSight assembly begins

Many developing space missions achieved milestones while I was in Darmstadt covering the landing of Philae and too busy to write about anything other than Rosetta. One of these was InSight, NASA's geophysical Mars lander. InSight entered the Assembly, Testing, and Launch Operations phase of its mission last month. Acronym-happy engineers refer to this as ATLO, of course. (Pronounce it "at-low.") This is when the whole plan comes together -- when parts and instruments from all over the world are delivered to a clean room where they're cleaned, tested, shaken, tested, baked, tested, assembled, tested, dissassembled, tested, cleaned, assembled, and on and on. Somehow at the end of it they will have produced a spacecraft that can survive riding into space atop an enormous firework; being alternately chilled and roasted during a year-long journey to Mars; land on another planet; and then do exquisitely detailed scientific observations with highly sensitive instruments.

With the announcement came a photo of InSight at the beginning of ATLO. This is like a spacecraft baby picture -- all her adult parts haven't grown in yet! She's just a hexagon of honeycomb material with a few spherical tanks suspended below right now -- there's a lot of work yet to do to get her ready for launch.

InSight assembly begins

NASA / JPL / Lockheed Martin

InSight assembly begins
Lockheed Martin engineers work on the honeycomb structure that forms InSight's deck, preparing it for propulsion proof and leak testing. InSight aims at a March 2016 launch.

Read more: InSight, mission status

You are here:
Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla
Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

Comments & Sharing
MER
Let's Change the World

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Today

Emily Lakdwalla
The Planetary Fund

Support enables our dedicated journalists to research deeply and bring you original space exploration articles.

Donate