NASA's InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the Red Planet, touched down safely on the surface of Mars on Monday. The probe has now snapped the image of the deserted land as the dust thrown up by its arrival is still settling around the spacecraft.
The photo was captured by InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), which is found on the lander’s robotic arm. In the background is Elysium Planitia, a large plain located at the planet’s equator.
InSight’s first photo of Mars shows dust speckled on the transparent dust cover that was over the camera. The spacecraft is expected to take more photos of the landing site and send them back to Earth, where scientists will use them to decide where the probe should place its instruments.
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.
InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.
France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) made the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, the key element for sensing quakes.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a self-hammering mole that can burrow 16 feet (five meters) into the surface -- further than any instrument before -- to measure heat flow.
Spain's Centro de Astrobiologia made the spacecraft's wind sensors.
Together, these instruments will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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Unlike the Curiosity rover, Insight won’t be able to move about on Mars. But using a suite of instruments and a seven-foot-long robotic arm, it will drill up to 16 feet below the surface at its landing site, Elysium Planitia, a broad plain that has been called “the biggest parking lot on Mars.”