Editor’s note: This story will be periodically updated as new images are released.
NASA’s InSight lander touched down on Mars on November 26 for a study of the Red Planet’s insides.
“Touchdown confirmed, InSight is on the surface of Mars!” said Christine Szalai, a spacecraft engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in a live broadcast from mission control. The lander sent its first picture — which mostly showed the inside of the dust cover on its camera lens — shortly after landing.
The landing of InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, brings the total number of successful NASA Mars landings to eight. InSight touched down at about 2:55 p.m. Eastern time in a wide, flat plain called Elysium Planitia, near Mars’ equator. News of the landing was relayed by a pair of tiny satellites called MarCO that travelled to Mars with InSight as an in-house communications team (SN Online: 11/18/18).
Over the next Martian year (about two Earth years), InSight will use a seismometer to listen for “Marsquakes” and other seismic waves rippling through the planet (SN: 5/26/18, p. 13). The lander will also drill five meters into Mars’ surface to measure the planet’s internal heat flow, a sign of how geologically active Mars is today.
Update, November 27, 2018: InSight has opened its solar panels and is charging its batteries. In the next few days, the Mars lander will stretch out its robotic arm and take photos of the ground so the InSight team can decide where to place its scientific instruments. The first image from the Instrument Deployment Camera, taken shortly after landing November 26 and beamed back at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, shows the spacecraft’s body, the folded-up robotic arm and the wide flat expanse of Elysium Planitia.