Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

InSight showed itself in a new selfie on Mars

This composite image made available by NASA shows the In Sight lander on the surface of Mars Modal Trigger This composite image made available by NASA shows the In Sight lander on the surface of Mars AP
Sandra Phillips | 15 December, 2018, 03:13

The InSight lander snapped a series of pictures that NASA turned into a stunning mosaic, released Tuesday.

InSight was launched on May 5, 2018, and landed on Mars six months later on November 26. The selfie was taken on December 6, 2018 (Sol 10).

In the photo, InSight's unfurled solar panel and instrument-laden deck are on full display.

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. Instead, NASA scientists are hoping to use the lander's tools to study Mars' internal structure and the history of the planet's formation.

That's because InSight will rely on sensors that its robotic arm will gently place on the Martian soil.

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One of InSight's 7-foot (2.2 meter) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander's Instrument Deployment Camera, which is fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm.

"The InSight lander acts like a giant ear", said Tom Pike, InSight science team member and sensor designer at Imperial College London. "This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren't on Mars, but we're glad to see that". InSight touched down in an nearly rock-free hollow, or a meteor impact area that filled with sand.

In the coming weeks, scientists and engineers will go through the painstaking process of deciding where in this workspace the spacecraft's instruments should be placed, it said. Once a spot has been located, they'll transmit commands to the probe, instructing InSight's robotic arm to carefully set SEIS and its heat flow probe, called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, at the pre-selected locations.

The $850 million InSight mission launched in May, along with two fly-along cubesats named MarCO-A and MarCO-B. NASA says that sandy composition will make it easier for the heat-flow probe to bore down to the 16-foot depth below the surface it needs to operate.

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