NASA’s InSight Lander Just Took Its First Selfie On Mars

Pablo Tucker
December 15, 2018

NASA's InSight spacecraft has used a camera on its robotic arm to take its first selfie - a mosaic made up of 11 images, the U.S. space agency said. On top of the deck are its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna. The selfie was taken on December 6, 2018 (Sol 10).

This mosaic, made of 52 individual images from NASA's InSight lander, shows the workspace where the spacecraft will eventually set its science instruments.

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.

The image, which is stitched together from several different snapshots the machine sent back to Earth, gives NASA engineers a clear look at InSight's surroundings and also lets them see the condition of the hardware that will spend the next several months listening closely to the inner workings of Mars. In a few weeks, InSight will use its robotic arm to carefully place SEIS on the surface and then cover it with a domed shield to protect it from wind and temperature changes. NASA selected this particular location on Mars, Elysium Planitia, because it's relatively free of rocks. The InSight mission team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California will use these images to help them determine where to place InSight's seismometer and heat flow probe. The hollow where the spacecraft now sits is a depression made by a meteor impact that filled with sand later. Both work best on level ground, and engineers want to avoid setting them on rocks larger than about a half-inch (1.3 cm).

"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 soft ground should ease the digging for the heat probe, which was created to get between 10 feet and 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) underground. Unlike the Curiosity rover, Insight won't be able to move about on Mars.

"This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren't on Mars, but we're glad to see that", Banerdt added.

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