Friday, 18 January, 2019

InSight lander takes its first selfie on Mars

NASA  JPL-CaltechNASA’s In Sight lander takes a selfie on Mars NASA JPL-CaltechNASA’s In Sight lander takes a selfie on Mars
Theresa Hayes | 14 December, 2018, 21:46

The spacecraft took the "selfie" with a camera located on its robotic arm.

The exploration robots used sensors to pick up vibrations from InSight's solar panels, meaning the whole spacecraft acts like a giant microphone, said InSight science team member Professor Tom Pike of Imperial College London.

November 26 it landed on Mars, where it will remain forever after the mission. Mission team members have also received their first complete look at InSight's "workspace" - the almost 4-by-2-metre crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft.

InSight also sent back a mosaic of images of its workspace - the approximately 14 x 7-foot (4 x 2 m) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft.

This "workspace" will be analyzed by mission scientists so InSight knows where to place the instruments on the Martian surface. Next, the robotic arm will provide a team to carefully install the seismometer (SEIS) and the heat flow sensor in the selected areas. It will also be good for InSight to avoid rocks larger than about a half-inch across (1.3 centimeters).

"The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it'll be extremely safe for our instruments", said InSight's Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

NASA  JPL-CaltechAnother view from NASA’s In Sight lander on the surface of Mars
NASA JPL-CaltechAnother view from NASA’s In Sight lander on the surface of Mars

He said, 'We're glad to see that'. The landing spot turned out even better than they hoped.

Indeed, it appears that InSight landed inside an impact crater that later filled with sand, NASA officials said. That will definitely make things easier for the heat-flow probe once it is drilled 16 feet below the surface.

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

As you can see from the image, InSight's arm isn't actually visible in the final "selfie".

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission.

'The solar panels on the lander's sides are flawless acoustic receivers, ' Prof Pike said. Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the wind sensors.