After successfully landing a rover on Mars yesterday, NASA has released the first image returned from the surface of the red planet.
NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed at 2:53pm EST on November 26 and within minutes of landing, sent its first image back to Earth.
The image shows a region of Mars known as Elysium Planitia, where InSight touched down to begin its fascinating mission to study the inside of Mars.
InSight’s view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is below the surface, where it will study Mars’ deep interior. pic.twitter.com/3EU70jXQJw
— NASA (@NASA) November 26, 2018
The image was sent back via two mini satellites called Marco-A and B.
While it does not reveal a huge amount, the photo shows the horizon of Mars in the distance and we can see how flat the region is.
The image is also partially obscured by a dust cover with debris having been kicked up during the rocket-powered landing.
Soon this dust cover will be removed allowing much clearer images to be taken and sent back to us.
The area where the rover has landed will be the only place being investigated on the surface as it its a stationary lander designed to look inside Mars.
It won’t be going anywhere else on the surface but will aim to use a suite of instruments to tell us how this planet was formed and evolved.
The rover will drill a ‘mole’ into the surface, taking temperature readings down to a depth of five metres to assess how active the core of Mars still is.
Another instrument will monitor the wobble of the planet, giving insights to what materials make up the inside of the core.
A seismometer will measure seismic waves in the ground that have been caused by meteorites hitting the planet or the contraction of the planet itself as it cools down.
InSight will use two cameras it has on board to record it deploying the instruments with a robotic arm.
It is the first probe in the world to use a robotic arm to deploy its own instruments.
The InSight lander survived the perilous journey, sending the official ‘beep’ to NASA to signal that all was well.
As reported by the Independent, a Mars landing is one of the most dangerous operations in spaceflight; there have been 17 attempts by humans to land on the planet’s surface, with 10 of those failing.
The InSight lander endured ‘seven minutes of terror’ as it crashed its way through the Martian atmosphere until it eventually touched down on the surface.
Because of previous failings, engineers were nervous going into this landing due to Mars’ difficult atmosphere.
However, the landing was ‘entirely perfect,’ with the lander and the satellites which communicated back to Earth working as hoped.
The mission is set to last until at least November 2020 and could give us a much more robust understanding of how rocky planets like Mars evolved.
Well done to NASA for their eighth successful landing on Mars.
Very excited to see what insights this rover can tell us about the mysterious red planet.
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