NASA's Mars lander takes selfie from above with robotic arm

This image from InSight's robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft's deck with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. The image was received on Dec. 4 2018. Image Credit NASA  J

NASA's Mars lander takes selfie from above with robotic arm

It displays the lander's solar panels and deck.

InSight landed in November on a mission to study the inside of Mars in order to more about how it formed and understand the processes which led to the birth of all the planets in our solar system. The selfie was taken on December 6, 2018 (Sol 10). It gives a detailed look at the lander's solar panels, as well as all the advanced surface mapping and analysis instruments it has onboard. This image is also a mosaic composed of 52 individual photos, according to NASA.

NASA InSight posted an update from Mars on its Twitter account saying it is feeling healthy, energized and whole. InSight will eventually use the almost six-foot long (2 meter) arm to pick up and carefully place the science instrument on the Martian surface. The selfie is made up of 11 images which were taken by its Instrument Deployment Camera, located on the elbow of its robotic arm.

"The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it'll be extremely safe for our instruments", said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Even so, the landing spot turned out even better than they hoped.

In the coming weeks, scientists and engineers will go through the painstaking process of deciding where in this workspace the spacecraft's instruments should be placed.

The landing site for InSight at Elysium Planitia was chosen specifically for the fact that it is "relatively free" of rocks. In a few weeks, InSight will use its robotic arm to carefully place SEIS on the surface and then cover it with a domed shield to protect it from wind and temperature changes. Both work best on a flat surface, and the engineers want to avoid installing them on the rocks. The hollow where the spacecraft now sits is a depression made by a meteor impact that filled with sand later. InSight will dig some 16 feet (five meters) below where it is situated with its heat-flow-probe.

"This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren't on Mars, but we're glad to see that", Banerdt said.

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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