NASA's InSight spacecraft has landed at a slight angle on the Red Planet, the US space agency said Friday. Experts hope that the spacecraft’s quake sensor and self-hammering mole to measure heat below the surface will work as planned. InSight was designed to operate on the Martian surface with an inclination up to 15 degrees.
InSight, a first robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the Red Planet, touched down safely at Elysium Planitia for a two-year mission on the surface of Mars on Monday.
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"The vehicle sits slightly tilted (about 4 degrees) in a shallow dust- and sand-filled impact crater known as a 'hollow,” NASA said in a statement.
"We couldn't be happier," said InSight project manager Tom Hoffman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"There are no landing pads or runways on Mars, so coming down in an area that is basically a large sandbox without any large rocks should make instrument deployment easier and provide a great place for our mole to start burrowing," he said.
Earlier, InSight snapped the image of the deserted land. The photo was captured by InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), which is found on the lander’s robotic arm. In the background Elysium Planitia, a large plain could be located at the planet’s equator.
NASA expects better images in the coming days once InSight sheds the dust covers on its two cameras.
"We are looking forward to higher-definition pictures to confirm this preliminary assessment," said Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of InSight at NASA.
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"If these few images -- with resolution-reducing dust covers on -- are accurate, it bodes well for both instrument deployment and the mole penetration of our subsurface heat-flow experiment," he said.
InSight, the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California on May 5, 2018.