NASA’s InSight lander is on the surface of Mars, which is an amazing accomplishment. A bunch of smarter than average primates, who several thousand years ago were building tone tools, have landed a robot on another planet to study its interior. That’s all well and good, but you can’t say you’ve really been someplace until you take a selfie. InSight has checked that off its list, and it’s not just for fun. NASA needs that selfie.
InSight relayed its first image of Mars shortly after landing with its Context Camera, but now NASA has had time to take some more ambitious photos. InSight has its Instrument Deployment Camera at the end of its 5.9-foot (1.8 meters) robot arm, allowing it to perform the same composite image trick as Curiosity. NASA instructed InSight to take 11 photos of itself using the arm, which moved with each exposure. By merging those file together, NASA was able to remove the arm completely. That’s why it looks like someone took the photo standing next to the robot.
The InSight selfie shows off most of the robot’s features including the round solar panels, and the instrument package. The instruments include a self-driving temperature probe that will dig into Mars to take its temperature and a seismometer (known as Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure or SEIS) that InSight will place on the surface with the aforementioned robot arm. You can see the SEIS atop the robot — it’s the copper-colored hexagonal tower. Taking the selfie will help NASA deploy SEIS properly.
InSight is a stationary robot instead of a rover like Curiosity or Opportunity. Therefore, NASA needs to know as much as possible about the surrounding terrain. The team has to tell InSight exactly how to place the SEIS package on the surface because Mars is too far away to control the process in real time. Using the selfie and a separate 52-image composite (above), NASA is getting a better idea what Mars is like around the lander.
The news is all good so far. InSight appears to have landed in an ancient impact crater that later filled with Martian soil. The soft ground should make it easier for the temperature probe to dig down, and there’s plenty of open space to set down the SEIS package. NASA is currently building a replica of the landing zone to simulate SEIS deployment, and it will be several weeks before it’s ready to do it for real.
Now read: NASA’s Mars Cubesat Mission Was a Smashing Success, Too, InSight Lander Records the Sound of Martian Wind, and Here’s What’s Next for NASA’s InSight Mars Lander
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