NASA has identified the exact landing location of its recently launched InSight lander, using a powerful camera aboard another of the agency’s spacecraft, hovering around the Red Planet. On November 26, InSight landed within a 130 km ellipse on Elysium Planitia on Mars. However, there was no way to determine exactly where it made landfall in this region.
HiRISE (which stands for “High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment”) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) detected the Martian landscape and landed around the lander on Thursday, NASA said in a statement. Released three new features in the Martian landscape, which appear to be teal. However, it is not their actual color, but the light reflected off their surfaces caused the color to saturate.
“The ground around the lander appears dark, as it has been destroyed by its retro-rockets during the descent. “Look carefully for the shape of a butterfly, and you can make out the lander’s solar panels on either side,” NASA said.
HiRISE also saw the lander’s heat shield and parachute, on December 6 and again on December 11, NASA said. They are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of each other on Elysium Planitia, the lava plain selected as InSight’s landing site. Meanwhile, the InSight lander also took a first selfie with the spacecraft’s robotic arm on December 6.
It broke a mosaic made up of 11 images, which includes the lander’s solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments, weather sensor barriers, and UHF antenna. The lander also sent another set of mosaics made up of 52 individual photos, showing the “working space”: the roughly 14-by-7-foot (4 by 2-meter) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft, he noted. The NASA .
InSight will study the interior of Mars and explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and then to Mars. The spacecraft will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days or suns, until November 24, 2020.