The NASA InSight probe implanted its first instrument on the surface of Mars, marking the first time a seismograph was placed on the surface of another planet.
The new images of the landing showed the seismograph on the ground, with its copper-colored roof lit slightly at sunset from Mars, according to the InSight team on Thursday.
"InSight's schedule of activities on Mars was better than we had hoped for," said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
"Putting the seismograph safely on the floor is a wonderful Christmas present," he said.
The InSight team has been working carefully to deploy its two scientific instruments dedicated to the Martian soil since it landed on Mars on November 26. In addition to the seismometer, also known as Seismic Experiment for Internal Structure (SEIS), the other is the heat probe, known as physical properties and heat flow probe (HP3).
Meanwhile, RISE, which does not have its own separate instrument, has already begun using InSight's radio connection to Earth to collect preliminary data on the planet's core, the team said. InSight
To ensure successful instrument deployment, engineers had to verify that the robotic arm that collects and places InSight instruments on the Martian surface was functioning properly.
They also had to analyze images of the Martian terrain around the module to find out the best places to deploy the instruments, the team said.
InSight engineers shipped orders for the spacecraft on Tuesday, and the seismograph was placed gently on the ground by the arm in front of the spacecraft on Wednesday, according to the team.
"The deployment of the seismograph is as important as landing InSight on Mars," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal researcher.
"The seismograph is the highest priority instrument at InSight, we need it to complete approximately three quarters of our scientific goals," he said.
The seismograph allows scientists to observe the interior of Mars by studying the movement of soil, also known as marsquakes. By analyzing how seismic waves traverse the layers of the planet, scientists can deduce the depth and composition of these layers.
In the coming days, the InSight team will work to level the seismograph. The first scientific data from the seismometer will return to Earth after the seismograph is in the correct position, the team said.
The heat probe is scheduled to be placed on the Martian surface in late January on the east side of the probe's working space, according to the team.
InSight landed safely on Mars on Nov. 26, initiating a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet.