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NASA’s InSight mission to Mars is coming to an end, and even though it never managed to get the buried heat probe to work, InSight is still a huge success thanks to its ground-breaking seismometer. Now, the first seismometer operating on another planet is making history again. Spare parts from the Seismic Interior Structure Experiment (SEIS) will form the basis for a seismic instrument that will reach the far side of the Moon in 2025.

SEIS was designed and developed by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and the French space agency CNES. Work began back in the 1990s, and the project was eventually selected to fly on InSight, which reached Mars in 2018. As part of the development process, engineers built a duplicate of a seismometer that is still on Earth. Parts of this device will be integrated into the Farside Seismic Suite (FSS), which NASA plans to deploy in Schrödinger Crater on the far side of the Moon.

The SEIS (above) features three ultra-sensitive pendulums spaced 120 degrees apart, allowing it to detect movement in any direction at just 10 picometers. This is less than the width of an atom. This incredible precision allowed NASA to record hundreds of earthquakes, far more than scientists expected to detect. For FSS, one of the spare SEIS pendulums will become the mission’s Very Wide Bandwidth (VBB) seismometer, which will measure vertical ground vibrations. A second instrument, known as the Short Period Seismometer (SPS), will monitor movement in other directions.

The existing SEIS hardware was already suitable for the proposed lunar application, according to Gabriel Pont, who manages the FSS project at CNES. “The Farside Seismic Suite seismometer will be tuned for lunar gravity. It will be placed in a vacuum protective box called a seismobox,” Pont said Ars Technica. The team expects the 40-kilogram FSS lander to have similar sensitivity to SEIS on Mars, making it about 10 times better than the latest seismometers deployed on the Moon during the Apollo program.

NASA awarded the contract to transport the Farside Seismic Suite to Draper Laboratory. The drop module (see above) is only the vehicle to bring the FSS to the surface. The instruments will be independent of the lander with their own solar panels, communication and heaters. To conserve power, the FSS will not transmit data during the lunar night, but will connect to an orbiter while in sunlight to upload data. NASA is paying Draper $73 million for this landing under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which is currently set for May 2025.

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