NASA’s InSight lander snaps its selfie on Mars using its robotic arm from above
NASA’s newest Mars lander, InSight, has beamed back its first selfie from the rocky, red planet. InSight appears to be soaking in the sun, with its solar panels and desk exposed, and its instruments visible.
Along with the selfie, NASA also clarified that “InSight isn’t camera-shy” in the mission’s most recent update.
InSight managed to get nearly all of its main body on camera by extending its robotic arm to capture a total of eleven images. These were processed using the same technique used by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. Overlapping images are taken one after another and later stitched together with software help.
The InSight mission team has also got their first complete look at InSight’s “workspace”. This 14-foot x 7-foot crescent right in front of the spacecraft was captured in a mosaic of 52 individual photos.
InSight’s survey shot of the ground directly in front of it. The composite image made from 52 individual shots taken by InSight on 6 December, 2018 shows the likely patch of ground that InSight will set down its science instruments. Image courtesy: NASA JPL
The team has begun analysing the images to decide if the spot is a good one for InSight to set down its science instruments. Once done, engineers at NASA will command the spacecraft’s robotic arm to carefully set down two of its instruments: seismometer (designed to pick up on Marsquakes and seismic waves that move through and within planets) and heat-flow probe (to measure the temperature of Mars’ interiors and the heat escaping its surface).
“The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it’ll be extremely safe for our instruments,” Bruce Banerdt, lead scientist in NASA’s InSight mission, said in a statement.
“This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren’t on Mars, but we’re glad to see that.”
InSight seems to be squatting on what is an almost rock-free “hollow” — a depression made by a meteor impact that later filled with sand. This, the InSight team reckons, should make it easier for InSight’s heat-flow probe to bore down to its target 16 feet (5 meters) depth under the surface.
* Lead image used for representational purposes only.