It was just a couple of weeks ago that NASA’s shiny new InSight lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet, sending cheers throughout NASA and the scientific community as a whole. The robot has a lot of work ahead of it, but things always start slowly when you’re handling a machine remotely from another planet.
This week, InSight began testing out its robotic arm that will place a variety of instruments on the ground around it. Those instruments will listen to the inner workings of the planet and provide data for researchers hoping to learn more about what’s hidden deep underground. That’ll happen sooner rather than later, but at the moment NASA is teasing us all with some of the best images of the Martian landscape we’ve ever seen.
One of the biggest challenge for the mission was landing in a prime location. The ground had to be as flat as possible and the lander needed a bit of luck to avoid any large rocks that could have hampered its ability to work with its instruments. In the newest photos sent back by the robot it’s immediately clear that its landing site is absolutely ideal.
In the raw images posted by NASA the ground around InSight looks nice and flat, with very few rocks larger than a pebble. That’s great news for engineers, and NASA says it’s continuing to maneuver InSight’s arm in order to paint a more complete picture of the bot’s environment.
“The arm will use its Instrument Deployment Camera, located on its elbow, to take photos of the terrain in front of the lander,” NASA writes. “These images will help mission team members 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.”