InSight lander takes its first selfie on Mars

It is not your typical selfie. It is a mosaic made up of 11 images.

This is NASA InSight's first 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. The selfie was taken on Dec. 6, 2018 (Sol 10). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This is NASA InSight's first 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. The selfie was taken on Dec. 6, 2018 (Sol 10). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight lander captured its first selfie- a mosaic, that composed of 11 images. The selfie released on Tuesday, shows InSight’s solar panels and deck, along with the scientific instruments on top of the deck, and the lander’s weather sensor.

The lender has also been taking photos of its new home, sending back 52 photos of the 14-by-7-foot area of terrain right in front of the spacecraft. This “workspace” will be analyzed by mission scientists so InSight knows where to place the instruments on the Martian surface. The seismometer and heat-flow probe need a level surface without rocks underneath them.

InSight’s Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said, “The near-absence of rocks, hills, and holes means it’ll be extremely safe for our instruments. This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren’t on Mars, but we’re glad to see that.”

This mosaic, composed of 52 individual images from NASA's InSight lander, shows the workspace where the spacecraft will eventually set its science instruments. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This mosaic, composed of 52 individual images from NASA’s InSight lander, shows the workspace where the spacecraft will eventually set its science instruments.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight’s landing team deliberately chose a landing region in Elysium Planitia that is relatively free of rocks. Even so, the landing spot turned out even better than they hoped. The spacecraft sits in what appears to be a nearly rock-free “hollow” — a depression created by a meteor impact that later filled with sand. That should make it easier for one of InSight‘s instruments, the heat-flow probe, to bore down to its goal of 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface.