After a seven-month and 300million mile journey, NASA’s InSight lander finally arrived at Mars on November 26. It is only now however that the space agency is releasing some of the most outstanding images of Mars that have ever been seen. NASA released almost high-definition pictures of the dusty terrain of the barren Red Planet.
InSight’s Twitter account posted: “We’re ON MARS, you guys”.
So far, the only images which are readily available to the public from InSight are its instruments in front of the murky landscape.
This is because the lander has yet to fully deploy all of its tools, but the new images will let experts at the US space agency determine where to set InSight’s seismometer and heat flow probe – “the only instruments ever to be robotically placed on the surface of another planet.”
Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said: “Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace.
“By early next week, we’ll be imaging it in finer detail and creating a full mosaic.”
InSight also has another camera, called the Instrument Context Camera, under the deck, but the view might be slightly obscured.
Tom Hoffman of JPL, InSight’s project manager, explained: “We had a protective cover on the Instrument Context Camera, but somehow dust still managed to get onto the lens.
“While this is unfortunate, it will not affect the role of the camera, which is to take images of the area in front of the lander where our instruments will eventually be placed.”
InSight’s mission is to map the deep interior of Mars and Nasa is also planning a rover mission for 2020, to investigate signs of primitive life they believe exists under the surface.
InSight’s primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, designed to record the slightest vibrations from “marsquakes” and meteor impacts around the planet.
The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander’s robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one half the radius of a hydrogen atom.
A second instrument, furnished by Germany’s space agency, consists of a drill to burrow as much as 16feet underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat flowing from inside the planet.