InSight lander takes its first selfie on Mars

NASA's InSight lander just took its first selfie on Mars — take a look

NASA's InSight lander has taken its first selfie on Mars. We see twin solar panels flanking the spacecraft's base where its suite of scientific instruments are still located. The image was received on December 4, 2018 (Sol 8).

The InSight lander used the arm to snapped a series of pictures that NASA turned into a stunning mosaic released this week.

This image shows InSight's solar panels and deck; on top of the deck are its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna. This image is also a mosaic composed of 52 individual photos, according to NASA. InSight will eventually use the almost six-foot long (2 meter) arm to pick up and carefully place the science instrument on the Martian surface. They will then command InSight's robotic arm to carefully set the seismometer (called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS) and heat-flow probe (known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP) in the chosen locations. The photo is a composite made up of 11 separate images, NASA officials said.

"The InSight lander acts like a giant ear", said Tom Pike, InSight science team member and sensor designer at Imperial College London. Both work best on a flat surface, and the engineers want to avoid installing them on the rocks. The latter two craft became the first cubesats ever to explore interplanetary space, and they also beamed home data from InSight during the lander's touchdown on November 26. The hollow where the spacecraft now sits is a depression made by a meteor impact that filled with sand later.

JPL-CalTech  NASA
JPL-CalTech NASA

"We had a protective cover on the Instrument Context Camera, but somehow dust still managed to get onto the lens", Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight's project manager stated via an agency-issued response.

The landing platform of the InSight mission sent to Mars selfie.

Lead scientist Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the red sandy expanse might seem "pretty plain" - if it weren't on Mars. He notes, "We're glad to see that". InSight will dig some 16 feet (five meters) below where it is situated with its heat-flow-probe.

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