A brand-new batch of Mars photos has just come through from the InSight lander, NASA announced yesterday.
This latest collection of images from the spacecraft’s landing site at Elysium Planitia comprises 17 novel snapshots and was received by mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on December 4 — or sol 8 of the InSight Mars mission.
The new photos offer a more detailed look at the lander’s surroundings, while also showing a clearer view of the InSight scientific instruments, currently resting on the probe’s deck.
After recently beaming back a selfie of its robotic arm raised in triumph, as the Inquisitr reported on Wednesday, the InSight Mars lander has snapped another photo of its 6-foot-long appendage. This robotic arm will soon come in handy when it’s finally time for the spacecraft to deploy its SEIS seismometer and HP3 heat flow probe. It’s “the only instruments ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet,” notes NASA.
While the latest snapshot of the robotic arm is definitively alluring, InSight seems to be proudest of its twin 7-foot-wide solar arrays, which the spacecraft first deployed a few hours after touching down on Martian ground on November 26. In a photo posted on Twitter, InSight lovingly displays one of its two “pretty” solar panels, singing its praises — and for good reason.
— NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) December 7, 2018
As the Inquisitr reported last week, on the first official day of the InSight mission, the probe’s solar panels generated 4,588 watt-hours of energy — breaking the record for most electrical power produced in a single sol by a robot on Mars.
Equally enthralling is a new photo of the spacecraft’s deck, marking the location of two tiny chips inscribed with the names of 2.4 million people who wanted to travel to Mars together with the InSight lander.
“We’re ON MARS, you guys. You’re all honorary Martians!” the InSight team tweeted yesterday.
Raise your hand if you’re in this new photo from #Mars! These two tiny chips contain the names of more than 2.4 million people who signed up to fly with me. We’re ON MARS, you guys. You’re all honorary Martians! pic.twitter.com/vDwJl9FzVC
— NASAInSight (@NASAInSight) December 6, 2018
The new Mars photos were captured with the lander’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), mounted on the spacecraft’s robotic arm. Over the next few weeks, InSight will continue to image the dusty terrain of its landing site in order to provide mission controllers with a detailed view of the workspace ahead of deploying its main scientific instruments.
“Now that I’ve got my arm out, I can start making a detailed 3D map of my workspace, the area right in front of me where I’ll place my instruments,” the InSight team wrote on Twitter.
Although these latest photos are a lot more detailed than the first few snapshots beamed back by InSight after touchdown, it will take up to three months before the lander is ready to pick up its science instruments with its robotic arm and place them gently on the landing site, the Inquisitr previously reported.
“Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at JPL. “By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.”
Aside from the IDC, the InSight lander is also fitted with a second camera called the Instrument Context Camera (ICC). Located under the spacecraft’s deck, the ICC will take photos of the area right in front of the lander, which is where the seismometer and thermal probe are due to be placed.
“Over the past week and a half, mission engineers have been testing those instruments and spacecraft systems, ensuring they’re in working order,” stated NASA officials.
As a side note, one of the auxiliary instruments on board the InSight lander, namely the probe’s pressure sensor, has already begun recording data. The instrument has picked up “a drop in air pressure, possibly caused by a passing dust devil,” said the space agency.
The pressure sensor is part of the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem, which also includes a magnetometer and a set of wind and temperature sensors, tasked with gathering meteorological data at the InSight landing site.
To see the full archive of InSight Mars photos, including the new set of raw images, visit the mission’s web page.