NASA released a 360-degree video showcasing a replica of its InSight Mars Lander being tested in simulated Martian conditions.

The two-year-long InSight mission is targeted at penetrating deep into Mars and understanding the red planet’s interior. The launch of the lander is still a few months away, but in order to test its ability to work in uncertain Martian conditions, the agency is looking at the replica of the robot on its own version of Mars created at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

NASA scientists used crushed garnet as Martian sand and gravel and specialized light to see how the lander would settle on the uneven surface of the planet and adjust to the color and brightness of sunlight on it while doing all kinds of experiments.

As garnet does not produce dust, the agency used piles of the material to check the deployment of lander’s critical instruments – a high-precision seismometer for detecting quakes and measuring the planet’s internal temperature, a shield isolating the seismometer from wind and temperature changes, and a heat-flow probe that digs up to 5 meters underground to measure the amount of heat escaping from the planet’s interior. 

In the three-minute long clip, we can see the ultra-sensitive seismometer being deployed. The entire process takes a lot of time as the robotic instruments move very slowly, Marleen Sundgaard, the lead scientist behind the InSight testbed project, said in a statement. The test even helped NASA determine the maneuvers that would deploy the instruments at the right place, without affecting their power tethers.

When installed correctly on the Martian surface, the actual InSight instruments would provide NASA crucial insights into the interior structure of Mars, its history, and how rocky planets like Earth came into existence and evolved over several billion years.

The 30-day launch window for InSight will open May 5, a period during which Earth and Mars would be closer to each other. After launch, the spacecraft would take some six months to reach its destination where it would unfold its solar panels to stay up and running and complete its mission.