InSight sends back first  selfie from Mars © NASA

More InSight selfies from the surface of Mars, please…

The first selfie taken by NASA's InSight is just the start of the lander's holiday snaps from the Red Planet.

This self-portrait above was taken by NASA’s InSight lander using a camera attached to its robotic arm. It’s a composite image made up of 11 shots joined together to show the lander perched on the Elysium Planitia, a broad plain that straddles the Red Planet’s equator where InSight has been positioned since successfully landing in late November. You can see the full InSight selfie here.

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The InSight team has already manoeuvred the lander’s seismometer onto the planet’s surface, and a heat probe will soon be positioned in the surrounding area in order to begin taking measurements.

his set of images from the Instrument Deployment Camera shows NASA's InSight lander placing its first instrument onto the surface of Mars, completing a major mission milestone. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Images from the Instrument Deployment Camera show NASA’s InSight lander placing its first instrument onto the surface of Mars © NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it’ll be extremely safe for our instruments,” said InSight’s 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 mission is to give the interior of the planet the equivalent of a full-body health check. It will measure Mars’s ‘pulse’ by monitoring the frequency and magnitude of the seismic activity (otherwise known as ‘Marsquakes’) and check its temperature by keeping tabs on the heat flow beneath the planet’s surface.

It’s hoped that the data collected will help the researchers to figure out how rocky planets, such as Earth and Mars, were formed. Here on Earth, most of the evidence has been erased thanks to the movements of tectonic plates over billions
of years. Once operational, InSight will continue to collect data for 709 sols – Martian days – the equivalent to 728 Earth days.

NASA's InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. As part of a series of deployment tests, the spacecraft was commanded to deploy its solar arrays in the clean room to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of Mars.

Be sure to listen to our episode of the Science Focus Podcast, where we speak to Bruce Banerdt, about the project’s history, its objectives, the technology it will be using, and what studying the internal structure of Mars can teach us about the formation of planets in general.


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