NASA's Lander InSight manages a confident stance for its first Martian Selfie


In the first selfie taken by InSight, the NASA probe looks ready and rare to go.

This wonderful mosaic, which consists of 11 individual photos, shows the entire probe, since it is well on the Martian surface. The photos were captured by Instrument Deployment Camera on InSight's robotic arm. The two solar panels of the probe can be seen, along with various scientific instruments on the deck, such as the weather sensor and the UHF antenna. InSight landed on Mars on November 26, and the NASA project was swimming absolutely during these early stages.

A second mosaic, consisting of 52 individual images, shows InSight's immediate working space, the area in which the probe will eventually plant its scientific instruments. The area shown in the mosaic measures about 4.27 m by 2.13 m. The lavender-colored areas show the best points for the probe to place its seismograph: the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

This is, fortuitously, the area where the stationary probe will do its job. NASA has selected this particular site on Mars, the Elysium Planitia, because it is relatively rock-free. But to make things even better, the probe landed in a rock-free hole – a hole created by an old meteor impact that slowly filled with sand – which appears to be exceptionally rock-free except for a few small scattered rocks.

"The near absence of rocks, hills and holes means it will be extremely safe for our instruments," said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt in a statement. "This may seem like a very simple piece of land if it were not on Mars, but we were glad to see it."

The mission planners will now have to decide where, within this area, the probe should place its ground detection instruments. Once a location is located, they will transmit commands to the probe instructing InSight's robotic arm to carefully set the SIX and its heat flow probe, called the Heat Flow Packet and Physical Properties, in the pre-selected locations. The flatter the surface, the better, how these instruments will work best on flat terrain. It will also be good for InSight to avoid rocks larger than about 1.3 cm. Once drilling begins, the heat flux probe can dig up to 16 feet (nearly 5 meters) below the surface of Mars.

With so many potential points of failure, it is a relief to see this project start so smoothly. We are hitting the wood so things continue to go well for NASA and its intrepid new probe.



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