NASA's InSight lander has taken a selfie on Mars. Next, NASA will determine where to place InSight's scientific instruments on the planet's surface.
- The selfie is made up of 11 images.
- NASA's InSight lander touched down on Mars on November 26.
- NASA will determine where to place InSight's instruments over the next few weeks.
The selfie, released on Tuesday and shown above, is made up of 11 images that were stitched together. The resulting photo shows InSight's solar panels and deck, along with the scientific instruments on top of the deck and the lander's weather sensor.
InSight landed on Mars on November 26 after a nearly seven-month journey from Earth. Since then, scientists have gotten their first look at InSight's "workspace": a 14-by-7-foot area in front of the lander. The image scientists have of that workspace is also a mosaic, created out of 52 separate images.
The $830 million InSight mission to Mars is the first since the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover reached the red planet more than six years ago. But InSight is not made to roam around. Instead, NASA scientists are hoping to use the lander's tools to study Mars' internal structure and the history of the planet's formation.
InSight is equipped with a seismometer that will listen for seismic movements on the red planet, which are known as Mars quakes. And a heat probe will dig down 16 feet to measure Mars' temperature and help scientists better understand the planet's geology.
Over the next few weeks, scientists and engineers at NASA will determine where those instruments should go within the lander's workspace. Then, the lander's robotic arm will grab the heat probe and seismometer and carefully place them on the Martian surface.
InSight was launched to Mars along with two briefcase-sized satellites collectively called Mars Cube One, which helped record and relay crucial landing data to NASA mission control.
NASA chose to land InSight in a region of Mars called Elysium Planitia because the area is relatively free of boulders and craters.
"The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it'll be extremely safe for our instruments," Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator, said in a press release. "This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren't on Mars, but we're glad to see that."
Elysium Planitia is located just north of the Martian equator, where the sun's rays remain strong throughout the year. That solar power is expected to allow InSight to operate on Mars for two Earth years using its solar panels.