Insight Lander Takes The First Selfie On The Red Planet
It was a nervous ride to the Red Planet, but NASA’s Insight lander landed successfully on the Martian surface without incident. The agency has already received substantial data that they are excited to comb through, but one of the best things Insight has returned to NASA is the amazing selfie it took.
The Insight lander first touched down on November 26 of this year. It landed in the Elysium Planitia, a flat plain located near the equator of Mars. Using a 5.9-foot-long (1.8meters) robotic arm, it took a selfie with a camera located at the very end of the limb. Interestingly, the photo itself is made up of 11 smaller images, according to NASA.
“This is the same imaging process used by NASA’s Curiosity rover mission, in which many overlapping pictures are taken and later stitched together,” said NASA officials in a statement released December 11th. “Visible in the selfie are the lander’s solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments.”
Insight is an ambitious project for the agency made famous by the moon landing. Previous rovers and landers had all scientific instruments attached somewhere on their body. Unlike previous missions, the lander carries two sensitive seismometers that must be placed on the Martian soil and a self-burrowing heat probe.
Proper placement of the instruments is important, so NASA has been examining the best deployment using the images returned by Insight.
“The near-absence of rocks, hills, and holes means it’ll be extremely safe for our instruments,” says InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt. “This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren’t on Mars, but we’re glad to see that.”
InSight’s landing spot happens to be an impact crater with lots of sand. With the heat probe meant to descend between 10 to 16 feet, the soft ground should make digging with it no problem.
The lander also managed to snap a photo of the space it will be working in. This ‘workspace’ image is made up of 52 smaller ones, similar to the selfie it took.