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Project_Insight gives you all you need to know about building a beautiful framed map of Mars that’s connected live to NASA’s Martian spacecraft Insight. The spacecraft on Mars records this weather data every second of every Martian day and sends it back to Earth where its displayed in the unashamedly old school scrolling LED matrix display.

Download on Github

How does it work?

NASA’s InSight Mars lander takes continuous weather measurements (temperature, wind, pressure) on the surface of Mars at Elysium Planitia, a flat, smooth plain near Mars’ equator. You can read more about the spacecraft here https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

Please note that there are sometimes problems with the sensors on Mars that result in missing data! If you see a long gap, a search result may bring up more information on whether it is a long-lasting problem. Summaries of these data are available at https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/weather/.

It is a great project for all ages to learn a range of skills such as physical computing, programming, basic electronics, and papercraft!

Getting started

Things you will need

  • Square picture frame – we used Ikea Ribba frame about £7
  • Raspberry PI Zero W (any PI with wireless should work) with soldered header
  • Micro Dot Phat LED matrix display board about £25
  • Optional – 6mm primed hardboard/MDF for laser cut map

Programming the PI

Looking for a great introduction to Raspberry Pi? Try the a starter kit which has everything you need to begin discovering Raspberry Pi.

If you need details on how to connect the PI to a laptop or screen please follow along here https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/projects/raspberry-pi-getting-started ensure your PI is connected to your WiFi network – see here https://www.raspberrypi.com/documentation/computers/configuration.html

  1. Make sure your system is updated and upgraded with the latest version by running the following commands in the Terminal. (Terminal is the computer icon on the Raspberry Pi menu bar)1.) Type this command and press enter.sudo apt-get update2.) Type this command and press enter.sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
  2. Please follow the installation tutorial for the Microdot PHAT here https://learn.pimoroni.com/article/getting-started-with-micro-dot-phat Once you have got a working example from the tutorial, we are ready to install the code

  3. You’ll now need to download the source code from the GitHub repository here.
    GitHub basics tutorial here https://geektechstuff.com/2019/09/09/introduction-to-github-raspberry-pi/

Putting it all together

Once you have a working example its up to you how you to choose to display it. We chose a real map of Mars and etched it onto some laser ply. The source file can be downloaded from the project page here https://github.com/themissioncode/Project_Insight/blob/master/InSight_Mars_Locaton_Laser_Template.pdf

If you don’t have access to a laser cutter you can just print it onto card – the green cutline is the exact size of the Micro Dot display panel.

Once you have all the components cut/printed/working its just simply a case of putting it all together.

Future modifications

This could be easily adapted to display local weather information/ocean conditions for your beach/city. In fact anything with an API can easily displayed on the Micro Dot display.