Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA’s InSight mission to Mars touched down on the red planet’s surface at the start of the month, and now, like any good Millennial, it has commemorated its arrival at its new home by posting a selfie.

The InSight selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera. The lander has a robotic arm which it uses to move equipment around on the surface of the planet, and on the elbow of this arm is the camera. The many individual images captured by the camera are then sent back to Earth where they are stitched together to show the lander in its full glory.

insight lander selfie
This is NASA InSight’s first full selfie on Mars. It displays the lander’s solar panels and deck. On top of the deck are its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna. NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image is not just for fun though, as it also gives NASA scientists important information about the area around InSight, which is known as its “workspace.” The workspace is the area of approximately 14×7 feet (4×2 meters) which is in front of the lander, and information about this area was gathered by stitching together a total of 52 different photos. The scientists can then use this visual information to help them decide where to place the spacecraft’s instruments such as the seismometer which will look for “Marsquakes” by gathering data about the vibrations coming from deep within the planet.

Moving InSight’s instruments onto the surface of Mars is a delicate process as the instruments work best when placed on level ground, and the lander is currently in a slight crater. Also, the team need to avoid rocks or other potential hazards which are bigger than half an inch or so, in order to avoid damaging the equipment. Fortunately, InSight’s Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory doesn’t think that will be a problem in the area around the lander: “The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it’ll be extremely safe for our instruments,” he said. “This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren’t on Mars, but we’re glad to see that.”

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