NASA's InSight robotic lander beams first 'selfie' from Mars back to Earth

This composite image made available by NASA shows the In Sight lander on the surface of Mars

This mosaic, composed of 52 individual images from NASA's InSight lander, shows the workspace where the spacecraft will eventually set its science instruments.

NASA used InSight's seismometer to measure the vibrations coming in from the solar panel array.

NASA's InSight spacecraft has only been on the surface of the Red Planet for a short while, and already it has shown off some cool photos and first ever facts about Mars. The selfie was taken on December 6, 2018 (Sol 10).

The exploration robots used sensors to pick up vibrations from InSight's solar panels, meaning the whole spacecraft acts like a giant microphone, said InSight science team member Professor Tom Pike of Imperial College London.

The next few weeks will be spent looking for the flawless spot to place InSight's instruments. The photo was captured by InSight's Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), which is found on the lander's robotic arm.

Over the next few weeks, scientists and engineers at NASA will determine where those instruments should go within the lander's workspace.

Mars' Elysium Planitia region (which sits just north of the equator) was picked exactly because of its mostly rock-free terrain. Then, the lander's robotic arm will grab the heat probe and seismometer and carefully place them on the Martian surface. The hollow where the spacecraft now sits is a depression made by a meteor impact that filled with sand later. The InSight team believes the spacecraft's heat-flow probe should have no issues reaching its target depth of 16 feet below the surface. The landing spot turned out even better than they hoped.

"The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it'll be extremely safe for our instruments", InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in the same statement.

The $850 million InSight mission launched in May, along with two fly-along cubesats named MarCO-A and MarCO-B.

"This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren't on Mars, but we're glad to see that", Mr Banerdt added.

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