The Italian LaRRI gets to Mars too

On last 26th of November at 9 pm, the NASA lander Insight landed on Mars, bringing on the Red Planet also a little piece of Italy and of the INFN.

In fact, on board there is LaRRI (Laser Retro-Reflector for Insight), a laser microreflector developed by the Frascati National Laboratories with the support of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

Insight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a mission whose task is to explore Mars depths to figure out how, over 4 billion years ago, rocky planets – like the Earth – formed. It was launched last 5th of May from the American base of Vandenberg (California) and it will also measure the tectonic activity, the planet heat flux and the meteor impacts. The instruments aboard include a seismometer to detect marsquakes, a probe to monitor the heat flux from inside the planet, and the Italian device LaRRI.

LaRRI is a miniaturized laser retroreflector (or microreflector) which will give the accurate position of the Insight lander during its exploration, verify Einstein’s general relativity. Furthermore, it will be one of the first “stations” of a future Martian network for geophysical and physical measurements, and it will contribute to a far better measurement of the Martian Prime Meridian.

LaRRI was designed by the SCF_Lab group of Frascati National Laboratories in the framework of the research activities on the Moon and Mars, in joint activities with ASI-Matera, is a passive instrument that does not require maintenance and therefore will be able to work in space for many decades.


Translation by Camilla Paola Maglione, Communications Office INFN-LNF