After surviving the “seven minutes of terror” that brought it tumbling down through the Martian atmosphere yesterday afternoon, NASA’s InSight probe can finally kick back, relax, and start looking around to get acquainted with its new home.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the spacecraft has already beamed back a first image of its landing site — taken within minutes of touching down on Mars’ Elysium Planitia.
This first Mars photo — captured by the InSight lander’s Instrument Context Camera (ICC) at about 3 p.m. EST on November 26 — was a dust-speckled view of the area around the spacecraft. The picture didn’t reveal too many clues as to the probe’s new abode. In fact, aside from one sizable Martian rock visible at the bottom of the image, InSight’s first snapshot from Mars mostly showed the smooth and sandy terrain in which the spacecraft had planted its three landing legs.
The image was later followed by a clearer, more detailed photo of the lander’s surroundings — a selfie from Mars taken by InSight’s 5.9-foot-long robotic arm.
Unveiled by NASA nearly six hours after the epic Mars landing, this latest snapshot was taken by the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) mounted on the lander’s arm. The image showcases InSight’s science instruments — with the serene Elysium Planitia unfolding in the background.
“There’s a quiet beauty here. Looking forward to exploring my new home,” the InSight mission wrote on Twitter after touchdown.
According to the space agency, the snapshot was sent over by the Mars Odyssey orbiter, which kept a watchful eye over the InSight landing from its perch above the red planet. The orbiter also relayed radio communications to let us know that the probe was doing well.
The InSight selfie reached Earth yesterday evening at about 8:30 p.m. EST, along with the confirmation that the probe had successfully deployed its solar arrays following the Mars touchdown. The probe was recharging its batteries after the long spaceflight to the red planet.
“Our Mars Odyssey orbiter phoned home, relaying news from InSight indicating its solar panels are open and collecting sunlight on the Martian surface,” NASA announced yesterday via Twitter.
Aaah...soaking up the Sun with my solar panels. ???? After a long flight, and thrilling #MarsLanding, it feels great to get a good stretch and recharge my batteries. (Like, literally.) It’s just what I’ll need to really start getting in tune with #Mars. https://t.co/yse3VEst3G pic.twitter.com/LpsiI0KNNz— NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) November 27, 2018
What’s Next For InSight
Now that the InSight mission has finally made it to the red planet, everyone is excited to see what’s in store for the intrepid spacecraft.
The first step for the NASA probe is to unstow its robotic arm, so it can photograph the landing site in even greater detail over the next few days. These photos are essential to the following step of the mission, as the Mars images will help InSight engineers back home pick the best possible spots for the probe’s scientific instruments.
The InSight lander is expected to start gathering science data right from the first week of being on Mars, NASA stated in a news release. However, the mission’s main science instruments — the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) — won’t be deployed for another two to three months. To read up on InSight’s main scientific instruments — and the pioneering work that awaits them on Mars — check out this previous article from the Inquisitr.
“Landing was thrilling, but I’m looking forward to the drilling,” said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
“When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments.”
Until the SEIS and HP3 are finally up and running, the InSight lander will spend its time scoping its landing site at Elysium Planitia with its weather sensors and magnetometer.
“Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars,” said JPL director Michael Watkins.
The InSight mission will be active on Mars until November 24, 2020 — or exactly one Martian year and 40 extra Martian days, also known as sols.
“I couldn’t ask for a better sol mate,” NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover tweeted a day before the InSight touchdown, as recently reported by the Inquisitr.