Nasa’s InSight lander has deployed its seismometer on the surface of Mars, which is considered to be a major milestone for the mission.

The InSight team has been working towards deploying its two science instruments on Martian soil since landing on the planet on 26 November.

Images transmitted from the lander indicate the seismometer has been placed on the ground.

InSight project manager Tom Hoffman, who is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said: “InSight’s timetable of activities on Mars has gone better than we hoped. Getting the seismometer safely on the ground is an awesome Christmas present.”

Meanwhile, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE) has started using InSight’s radio connection with Earth to gather preliminary data on the planet’s core.

Scientists expect to start receiving results over the next year.

In order to deploy the seismometer and heat probe, engineers first checked if the robotic arm was working, which picks up and places InSight’s instruments onto Mars’s surface.

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Engineers also tested the commands for the lander by ensuring a model deployed the instruments as intended in a testbed at JPL.

In addition, scientists analysed images of the Martian terrain around the lander to determine the best location to deploy the instruments.

On 18 December, engineers sent commands to InSight. The following day, the seismometer was placed onto the Martian ground directly in front of the lander, roughly 5.36ft away.

InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, also based at JPL, said: “Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars.

"Having the seismometer on the ground is like holding a phone up to your ear."

“The seismometer is the highest-priority instrument on InSight: we need it in order to complete about three-quarters of our science objectives.”

The seismometer enables scientists to understand the Martian interior by analysing ground motion, which is known as marsquakes.

Each marsquake indicates the structure of the planet’s interior. Scientists can determine the depth and composition of these layers by studying how seismic waves pass through the planet.

Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and Paris Diderot University SEIS principal investigator  Philippe Lognonné said: “Having the seismometer on the ground is like holding a phone up to your ear.

“We’re thrilled that we’re now in the best position to listen to all the seismic waves from below Mars’ surface and from its deep interior.”

In the coming days, the InSight team will work on leveling the seismometer, which is sitting on ground that is tilted 2° to 3°.

The first seismometer science data is expected to be transmitted to Earth once the seismometer is placed in the right position.

InSight is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington by JPL.

InSight is part of Nasa’s Discovery Program, which is managed by the organisation’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space built the InSight spacecraft.